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Robert W. Woodruff 

G. Greene Collection 


Special Collections & Archives 

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you." — A Treatise on Short Whist* 








T is market-day in Aldringham. That thriving 
town, centre of a great agricultural district, is 
all alive. The well-to-do farmers of the neigh- 
bourhood pour in to see what may be stirring 
— to gossip, to cater, to hear whether wool may be still 
rising, or what change may have taken place in the price 
of corn. Genial and hearty are their greetings. Much 
badinage passes amongst them with regard to the week's 
doings in the hunting-field. Small holland bags are 
dragged from capacious pockets, and there is pouring of 
wheat from palm to palm, munching and muttering of 
"good!" "bold!" "bright!" &c, and "What may 
you be asking a quarter ? " Here a burly farmer inquires 
peevishly whether " owt like the price of sheep was ever 
heard on ? " — there another shakes his head, and mutters 
mysteriously, " Pigs are rum 'uns ; they're down to 
nowt. You might as 'lieve give 'em away." 

At the fishmonger's the burly breeder of shorthorns and 
the country rector run across each other in pursuit of a 
bit of cod or a pair of soles for next day's dinner. The 

2 False Cards. 

gunsmith is driving a brisk trade, and it would seem that 
cartridges are quite as much in demand as corn ; for be 
it known that Aldringham is the centre of a very sporting 
district, and most of these jolly agriculturists are equally 
at home in the saddle or with the trigger — can negotiate 
an awkward double, or render good account of a wood- 
cock, with equal facility. 

The barbers' shops are having a busy time of it ; the 
bucolical chins of the small landholders poise themselves 
in mid-air, and offer the week's growth to the blade of 
the shearer, who lathers, mows, and mops with wondrous 
celerity and assiduity. The numerous booths about the 
spacious market-place are thronged with customers, while 
the vendors of quack medicines and the cheap- Jacks are 
respectively surrounded by attentive groups. One of 
these latter, indeed, has attracted a largish audience. It 
is a sharp November morning, and he proffers great-coats 
and other warm clothing to the public. He is a very 
gem of his kind, and keeps up an unceasing flow of 
patter, and a continual change of garment. 

" All right, you don't go for ease afore ornament, you 
don't — a nobleman like you must put in for appearances- 
something spicy and fashionable, that's your line. I 
have got 'em here all sorts and sizes — coats for coster- 
mongers and paletots for members of Parliament. Here 
you are," he continued, turning himself round, that his 
audience might have a back view of him — " look at it on 
all sides, warmth, respectability, and comfort — that's wot 
it is — and all for twelve-and-six ! It's clean giving it 
away, I am ! Don't nobody speak ? — there, take it for 
eleven shillings — what, you won't ? Ah ! it's fashion 
you want — better be dead than out of the fashion, says 
you, and right you are ! Now, then," he continued, 
throwing off the coat which had been the subject of his 
late laudation, and slipping into a more slangy garment 
of the same kind, " this is the article to fetch you ; there 
can't be no mistake about you now, you know. Look at 
me ! — you'd be puzzled to make out whether I was a 
nobleman on his way to the races, or the county member 
going to a ploughing-match. Ease and elegance — that's 
wot it is. Who said seventeen-and-six ? Take it at 

Tlie Aldrliigham Bench. 3 

fifteen, and I'll throw you an eye-glass in. Well, it's no 
use — I knows when I'm bound to sell. You were made 
for the coat, and the coat for you, sir. There, take it 
away at fourteen bob ; it'll be profit enough only to see 
you walk about in it." And as he concluded, the speaker 
whipped off the subject of his encomium, and threw it to 
a soft-looking, flashily-dressed man, who formed one of 
his audience. 

There was much grinning amongst the crowd, more 
especially when, after duly trying the coat on, the victim 
succumbed, and paid for it. Men of the vendor's profes- 
sion have eyes like hawks, and are quick at the reading 
of faces. They know if they can once induce any one of 
their hearers to try on one of the garments they display, 
that the selling him one is very nearly certain and con- 
sequently often try a coup of this description. 

But now the attention of the throng is arrested by a 
small procession of the county police, who are escorting 
some two or three delinquents to hear their doom before 
the bench of magistrates at this time assembled. The 
magistrate's office in Aldringham is quite one of the 
popular entertainments on a market-day. The country 
people, more especially the women, take their seats there, 
and watch the proceedings with grave, stolid faces, and 
an interest almost incredible. They regard it as a species 
of dramatic entertainment, with the additional advantage 
that it is perfectly gratuitous. And they have some 
reason for doing so. Touches of pathos and scenes of 
humour are at times evolved from the somewhat hum- 
drum work of a magistrate's office, and by persistent 
attendance an occasional comedy or melodrama is arrived 

There is considerable excitement to-day, as it is 
whispered about that a sharper, who has practised only 
too successfully on the credulity of the town and neigh- 
bourhood, is about to be arraigned, and confronted with 
his victims. Popular opinion is divided as to how things 
will go with him. While some contend that he has 
been so crafty in his duplicity that the law will prove 
powerless to touch him, others indignantly demand 
whether it was likely that the police would have inter- 

4 False Cards. 

fered unless they had got a clear case ? But that it will 
be a cause of much interest is allowed on all hands. 

The body of the magistrate's office fills quickly. 
There is quite a buzz of conversation. Much laughter 
and giggling are called forth as it is whispered around 
how divers personages, well known to the crowd, have 
been taken in by the prisoner, and by what ingenious 
methods. Suddenly the inspector of police calls sternly 
for silence in the court, and the magistrates make their 
appearance, through the door of their private room. 

A grim, grizzled, severe-looking man takes the chair, 
and throws a keen, harsh look over the thronged benches 
as he does so. It is Sir John Collingham, Chairman of 
the Aldringham Bench ; a good man of business, but 
with little mercy for human infirmities in his hard, stern 
nature. One who holds that the peccant weaknesses of 
mankind are best held in check by sharp castigation at 
the outset ; that heavy stripes meted out for first offend- 
ing is the best remedy with which to counteract a ten- 
dency to wander a-down the flowery by-paths of vice. A 
just man, who will sift the evidence of crime with patience 
and impartiality ; but who, once convinced that the 
accusation is true, is swift and vengeful in his judgment. 
He carries much the same principles into his dealings in 
private life, and hates and persecutes those with whom 
he has quarrelled with an unforgiving fervour most 
edifying to witness. 

Next to him, on his right, is a tall, stout, pompous 
gentleman, who surveys the Court beningly through his 
double gold eye-glass. His patronizing smile seems 
calculated to assure lookers-on ; it seems to say, " Pray 
be easy in your minds. I have taken the business in 
hand. Is not that enough ? " And in his own heart Mr. 
Holbourne, the Aldringham banker, is most thoroughly 
convinced that it is. Mr. Holbourne is imbued with the 
belief that the whole prosperity of Aldringham is due to, 
and derived from, his residing and taking interest in the 
place. His name figures upon all committees for the 
promotion of either business or amusement. Mr. Hol- 
bourne attends them every one with praiseworthy diligence 
»»-hems, haws, applauds gently, and surveys the members 

The Aldringham Bench. j 

beningly through the double gold eye-glass. Although 
he has never been known either as the originator or 
active conductor of reforms sanitory, schemes commercial, 
designs theatrical, or designs terpsichorean, yet Mr. Hol- 
bourne is quite convinced that none of these things 
would ever have been achieved in Aldringham but for 
himself. The town, he considers, owes him a great debt 
of gratitude, and England generally may be thankful to 
possess so energetic a citizen — a prosperous, well-to-do 
man, thoroughly wrapped up in the sense of his own 
importance, and who has never yet met with a reverse 
sufficient to shake the pedestal of self-esteem from which 
he looks blandly down upon his less-gifted and less- 
fortunate fellow-creatures. Two other magistrates com- 
plete the Bench upon this occasion, of whom it will 
suffice to say that one is of a vacillating turn of mind, 
and is painfully swayed by conflicting evidence ; while 
the fourth is a benevolent old clergyman, who seldom, 
from deafness, thoroughly comprehends the witnesses, 
and in his anxiety not to commit himself, generally leans 
to the merciful view of not committing the prisoner. 

Silence having been again proclaimed, a fair-haired, 
quietly-dressed man is placed in the dock, and looks in 
nowise abashed by his situation. If truth must be told, 
it is not quite the first time that Mr. Leonidas Lightfoot 
has occupied that position in a Court of Justice. He 
has a pale face, with a comical snub-nose, and a pair of 
twinkling gray eyes. He makes a graceful obeisance to 
the Bench, and then lounges easily over the rail in front 
of him. He listens attentively while the magistrate's 
clerk reads out the indictment — " How that he, Leonidas 
Lightfoot, has obtained various sums of money from the 
tradespeople of Aldringham, and the neighbouring 
inhabitants thereof, under fraudulent pretences," and 
declares himself " Not Guilty," when called upon to 
plead, with an air of easy assurance. 

" What is your occupation and place of residence ? " 
inquired Sir John Collingham of the prisoner, as the 
clerk finished. 

" A philanthropist," replied Mr. Lightfoot, quietly. 
" My object is the relief of the struggling and slightly- 

6 False Cards. 

educated working-classes. My residence, where I may 
find employment to my hand. The profession, as your 
worships of course see, necessitates much wandering 
from place to place." "Are you accredited to any 
mission or society for that purpose ? " asked the chairman, 

" No ; I prosecute my work single-handed. To put 
ambitious youth in the way of a remunerative and 
honest livelihood, is the sole purpose of my existence." 

" Upon my life," retorted Sir John, sharply, " it strikes 
me you are one of the most impudent fellows ever 
brought before me." 

" To be persecuted and misunderstood, sir, has been 
ever the lot of advanced reformers," murmured the 
prisoner, sadly. 

"I tell you what," whispered the chairman to Mr. 
Holbourne, " the police have either made a mistake, or 
we have got hold of a very clever impostor. I should 
think the latter." 

" Quite so — quite so. I was just about to observe the 
same thing, Sir John." And Mr. Holbourne glanced 
indignantly through his eye-glasses, as much as to say 
that any attempt to take him in was a very hopeless affair 

" He said he was a victim of persecution, did he not?" 
inquired the deaf clergyman. 

" I am afraid the police have fallen into a grievous 
misconception," muttered the vacillating magistrate. 

" Call the first witness," said Sir John. 

A slouching young man was thereupon placed in the 
witness-box, and sworn. In answer to the questions put 
to him, it was elicited that he was a grocer's assistant in 
Aldringham ; that attracted by an advertisement in the 
Middlethorpe Gazette, he had answered it, and had 
enclosed five shillings worth of stamps, according to the 
terms of such advertisement ; that the advertiser stated 
that, in consideration of such sum, he would put him 
(the witness), if possessed of a capital of five pounds, 
in a business at which from thirty shillings to two 
pounds a week was easily made, and that he had not 
done so. 

The Aldringham Bench. 

" You have heard what the witness has 
said the chairman. " Do you want to ask him any 
questions ? " 

" Only two, gentlemen," replied Mr. Lightfoot ; " but, 
before I do so, I request that the advertisement alluded 
to may be read in court." 

" Quite inadmissible — quite inadmissible ; unparalleled 
presumption ! " murmured Mr. Holbourne. 

" I opine he has a perfect right to have it done now, 
if he demands it," replied the Baronet, with a smile. 
" I have a copy of the paper here ; but the advertisement 
must be put in evidence some time, you know. The 
case, of course, may hinge pretty much upon the wording 
of it." 

" Certainly, Sir John, certainly. If you choose to 
waive the irregularity of the proceeding, I withdraw my 
objection." And Mr. Holbourne threw himself back in 
his chair, with the air of a man who had yielded an assured 
point of law out of deference to his colleagues. 

The clerk was accordingly desired to read the adver- 
tisement, which ran as follows : — 

" To the Ambitious and Indigent. To the Educated and 
Needy of both sexes. — The Advertiser has for years noticed that 
people of some slight education and small capital fail to raise their 
position in the world from two causes. Firstly, from not knowing in 
what direction to exercise their faculties ; secondly, from ignorance of 
the numberless opportunities that exist in this great commercial country 
of profitably starting themselves in business for a few pounds. The 
Advertiser has made it his special study to investigate those tangled 
paths to fortune that lie open to the small but enterprising capitalist. 
Numberless testimonials from individuals now wealthy, will attest that 
they owed their first success in life to the Advertiser's advice. To the 
sons and daughters of Aldringham and its vicinity, the Advertiser has 
only now to say that he can place any one of them in the way of a 
light, genteel business, that realises from thirty shillings to two pounds 
a-week, and requires a capital of only five pounds to commence with. 
The trade is new, and will, of course, be speedily overcrowded, there- 
fore early application is advisable. Enclose five shillings worth of 
stamps, as registry fee, and in proof of the genuineness of the applica- 
tion. Address, L. L. , Post-office, Aldringham." 

" You, of course, admit this advertisement to be 
yours ? " inquired Sir John. 

" Pardon me, I have been told that admission is always 
dangerous in a Court of Law," replied Mr. Ligh ot. 

8 False Cards, 

11 We will say, if you please, that I received a letter from 
the witness, in consequence of that advertisement. I 
wish to ask him whether he expected more than to be 
told how, upon an outlay of five pounds, he could earn 
from thirty shillings to two pounds a-week ? " 

" You hear the prisoner's question," said Sir John. 
" Be good enough to answer it." 

" Well, he's so far right — that's what I did expect ; 
but then," continued the witness, with a puzzled ex- 
pression, " I can't somehow manage what he told me 
to do." 

" I suppose you have not the five pounds ? " inquired 
Mr. Holbourne. 

" Oh ! yes, I've the five pounds right enough ; but 
then there's getting a place to put up the machine in. 
He said it was all simple enough, and it isn't — that's 
what I mean, and he's got my five shillings." 

" Excuse me, gentlemen," said Mr. Lightfoot, suavely, 
" but if you would allow me to ask the witness my second 
question, I think you will see at once that his own want 
of energy is the sole cause of his discontent." 

The chairman nodded assent. 

" Please read to the Court the letter you received in 
reply to your application ; or if you haven't it with you, 
state its contents." 

" Oh ! here's the letter, and anyone's welcome to it," 
said the witness, fumbling in his pockets. " There, 
perhaps you'd kindly read it, sir," he continued, pushing 
the paper across to the clerk of the court. " I'm not 
very good at pen work myself." 

The clerk took it, and read as follows : — 

" The variation of the weight of the body has been of 
late a subject of great interest to the advanced patho- 
logists who hold that the germ of many of the distempers 
so inimical to life may be detected in the deviations of 
human gravity. To meet the requirements of the age, 
and enable mankind to, in some measure, keep an eye 
upon the decrease or increase of flesh, which may be the 
indication of severe disorder in the system, there has 
come rapidly into vogue the Weighing-Machine. These 
health-regulating engines may be procured for from five 

The Aldringham Bench. 9 

to ten pounds, and from statistics carefully collected from 
inquiry at all the principal railway stations where they 
are in work, yield to their proprietors a return of from 
six to seven shillings a day. Need I say more ? — buy a 
weighing-machine, and take the first step on the road to 

The court was convulsed. The bench, even to the 
deaf clergyman, could not restrain their laughter ; the 
latter laughed, after a very prevalent cause of human 
hilarity, to wit, because all around him laughed. Mr. 
Lightfoot and the witness alone appeared unmoved. 
And yet this can be hardly said of the latter, for although 
he showed no sign of mirth, he was evidently perturbed 
and haunted with a dim conscious'ness that he was in 
some sort an object of ridicule to his fellows. 

" Gentlemen," said Mr. Lightfoot, when the laughter 
had subsided, " I contend that every statement in that 
letter is a fact ; there is a weighing-machine at the station 
here — you can send to see if it is not so." 

" That's where it is," interrupted the victim ; " that's 
how's he's cheated me, your honours. There is a weighing- 
machine, and they won't have another :" 

Here the inspector of police interposed, and informed 
the magistrates that the prisoner's statement was sub- 
stantially true as regarded the profits of the business, 
and that the railway company had received no less than 
forty-three applications for leave to set up weighing- 
machines at Aldringham in the course of the last week ; 
all the results of the prisoner's circular, for which the 
applicants had paid their five shillings apiece. 

" May I point out, gentlemen, that people are equally 
desirous of being weighed in other places as in Aldring- 
ham," remarked Mr. Lightfoot, as the inspector finished 
his story. "I gave my clients an idea quite worth what 
they paid for it. I cannot pretend to find them energy 
to put it into practice." 

" I suppose," said the chairman, turning to the clerk, 
" all the evidence is of a similar character." 

" Yes, Sir John, there are plenty more witnesses, but 
their evidence is merely a repetition of what yon have 

to F-atse cards. 

"I think," said the chairman to his brother magis- 
trates, " we had better consult about this case before we 
go any further with it. And the bench accordingly with- 
drew into their private room. 

" A most remarkable case of fraud," said Mr. Holbourne, 
as the door closed. 

" No doubt about that," said Sir John ; " but I don't 
think we can do anything with him. He has just 
managed to keep clear of the law. He's a most impu- 
dent scamp ; but, nevertheless, he has acted in accordance 
with the terms of his advertisement." 

" Precisely — just so," observed Mr. Holbourne. " It 
was the very remark I was about to make, Sir John. 
Yes ! we can do nothing with him." 

Of course the deaf gentleman was in favour of an 
acquittal, and the vacillating one not likely to be in 
opposition to his three colleagues, so that their consulta- 
tion was speedily over, and they returned into court. 

Silence was again proclaimed, and then the chairman 

" We have heard the evidence against you, Leonidas 
Lightfoot, together with your ingenious comments upon 
it. My brother magistrates and myself regret to say, 
that although we have not the slightest doubt of your 
being one of those vultures of society who live upon the 
credulity of their fellow-men, that we have no option 
but to discharge you. A long course of similar imposi- 
tion has probably rendered you an adept in keeping just 
within the pale of the law." 

" Persecution, gentlemen, has ever been the lot 
of " 

" Silence ! " said Sir John sharply. " No more of your 
cant, sir. That you gain your living by fraudulent 
representations we have no moral doubt. We can only 
trust that your narrow escape to-day may deter you 
from such practices in this neighbourhood for the future. 
You are discharged." 

The prisoner left the dock, but was apparently in no 
hurry to leave the court. He remained listening most 
attentively to the proceedings until the adjournment, 
when he lounged leisurely away at the heels of the police. 

The Aldringham Bench. 


Mr. Lightfoot was a man of much forethought, and he 
had known the crowd attempt to rectify the miscarriage 
of justice before now, especially in delicate cases like h"s 

" Very curious case indeed," said Mr. Holbourne, as he 
narrated the circumstances to a friend later in the day, 
"but I saw at once we couldn't touch him — clever 
scoundrel — and Collingham quite agreed with me. Man 
of great intelligence, Sir John." 



HE banker occupied a large old-fashioned house 
that opened on to one of the quieter streets of 
Aldringham. One of those queer roomy old 
houses that one meets with occasionally in the 
country towns of England. The dining-room, though 
rather low in pitch, was large and panelled with oak. 
You descended two steps to it, which of course led 
strangers at times to make a much more hurried than 
graceful entrance. In short, you were always going up 
or down two or three steps, and even those affiliated to 
the mansion would have hardly ventured about it in the 
dark. It was full of quaint corners and odd passages — 
an old house, in short, that had been much built on to, 
without reference to architects. The successive pro- 
prietors of days gone by had apparently thrown out a 
room here and a couple there, with the assistance of an 
Aldringham bricklayer, as exigency and fancy dictated. 
The result of course being a rambling house, that pos- 
sessed far more space than it was possible to utilize, and 
a speciality for drafts that it was impossible to control. 
At the back ran a large old-fashioned garden — one of 
those gardens rarely seen now-a-days — a creation of an 
age that dreamt not of " bedding out plants," composed 
of untrimmed evergreens, wandering paths, rustic 
summer-houses, very unlike the neat heather-roofed 

Marion Langvoorthy . 13 

erections of the present, and garnished with ail sorts of 
flowers, that one seldom comes across in these times. 
Stocks, cabbage roses, sweet peas, larkspur, pinks, honey- 
suckle, &c, grew there in wild profusion. One felt that 
earwigs, caterpillar?, and other creeping things must also 
be wandering about those realms in equal profusion, 
and that to sit down in one of those rather mildewed 
arbours would certainly involve the horrible sensation of 
something crawling down the back of one's neck. 

Underneath the windows of the drawing-room, things 
certainly wore a different aspect. There the taste of 
Mr. Holbourne's niece and daughter had been exercised. 
A trim croquet-lawn ran almost up to the walls, and was 
surrounded by gaily-dressed beds, the decking of which 
had been undertaken on the most approved principles of 
modern horticulture. But the time of croquet and 
flowers has departed — however gay that parterre may 
once have been, it looks but desolate now, with its 
banked-up beds. The hoops have been withdrawn from 
the sward, which is now disfigured with worm casts ; the 
leaves come fluttering down, and there is no denying 
that the view from Mr. Holbourne's drawing-room is 
depressing this November day. 

And so, to judge by her countenance, thinks appa- 
rently a young lady who, with her hands laced behind her, 
is looking moodily out at the prospect. She is not exactly 
pretty, and yet Marion Langworthy never lacks partners 
nor admirers when she mixes in society. We see her, 
perhaps, at her very worst, as she stares vacantly into 
the garden. Hair of that dead ashen blonde, light blue 
eyes, thin lips, a resolute, somewhat square chin, and 
very slightly marked eyebrows, hardly give one the idea 
of beauty — still less so when one sees the face in perfect 
repose, as one does at this moment ; there is a hardness 
about the lines, if one may so express it, that is rather 
repellent. One could fancy this woman cruel and merci- 
less on occasion. Of medium height and very neat 
figure, there is a careless grace in her present attitude, 
albeit the pose is one by no means calculated to display 
a woman to advantage. She taps with her foot im- 
patiently on the floor, exposing a very well-turned ankle 


14 False Cards. 

as she does so. Miss Langworthy is quite aware that 
her extremities are her strong point, although it is more 
from habit than design that she allows a glimpse of her 
little foot on this occasion. 

" I wonder whether Reginald means coming down for 
this ball next week ? What should you think, Grace ? " 
observes Miss Langworthy at last, without turning her 

"Really, my dear Marion, if you don't know, how 
should I ? Are you not the keeper of his heart, and 
sharer of his sorrows and aspirations ? Brothers don't 
trouble sisters much with their confidence under such 

The speaker, a tall, handsome girl, was buried in the 
depths of a huge old-fashioned arm-chair, and broke off 
from the book she was absorbed in to answer her cousin's 

" And Reginald don't trouble himself any more, as far 
as I am concerned, either," retorted Miss Langworthy, 
with some asperity, as she turned sharply round. " I 
don't expect him to be writing me quires of maudlin 
sentiment — that is not my disposition any more than it 
is his ; I don't want him to tell me he loves me by every 
post ; he has told me so once, and asked me to marry him, 
which should content any reasonable woman — but I do 
expect him to answer my letters." 

Grace Holbourne stared. Her brother's engagement 
to Marion had long been a mystery to her. A more 
prosaic pair of lovers surely never existed, Grace thought. 
They were both young ; her cousin was only twenty-two, 
her brother but a year older ; and yet, from the calmness 
of their greeting, and their perfectly undemonstrative 
behaviour to each other, no one could have imagined 
that any feeling warmer than pure cousinship existed 
between them. Mr. Holbourne, indeed, was perfectly 
ignorant of their engagement, although it was now four 
years since they had plighted their troth. 

" Well, it's rude of him, to say the least of it," said 
Grace, laughing ; but Regi always was a woefully bad 

" He will have to find a more satisfactory excuse than 

Marion Langworthy. ic 


that," replied Miss Langworthy, " or else his next visit 
to Aldringham will prove far from pleasant to him." 

It did occur to Grace that under those circumstances 
it would be at her brother's discretion as to how long he 
should stay, and still more so when he should return. 
But Miss Langworthy had much confidence in her own 
attractions, and considerable faith in the sway she held 
over her lover, and Grace's view of the case never pre- 
sented itself to her mind. 

Although the foregoing conversation would lead to 
the belief that Marion was a girl who could not exercise 
much influence over men, such was far from being the 
case. If she was not pretty, she was, at all events, nice- 
looking. When her face was lit up and animated, she 
had more than once been pronounced fair to gaze upon. 
She had plenty to say for herself, was always dressed in 
extremely good taste, danced well, and was gifted with 
great self-possession. She had wonderful tact in drawing 
people out, in making them show the very best of them- 
selves. She was a most thorough coquette, and a perfect 
mistress of all the rules of the science. No girl made 
more of such weapons as lay within her reach than did 
Marion Langworthy. No girl, perhaps, was ever more 
cold-blooded in the use of them. Her feelings were 
thoroughly well-tutored, and though, even as an en- 
gaged young lady, she manifested not the slightest 
objection to embark in any amount of flirtation, yet her 
fiance might have rested perfectly easy upon that score. 

Her engagement with Reginald Holbourne had hap- 
pened in this wise. Four years previously Miss Lang- 
worthy had come upon a visit to her uncle at Aldringham. 
Reginald was home from Oxford, and only too delighted 
to become the esquire of his lively cousin. His devotion 
amused her, and she led him on with sweetest smiles, 
and other agaceries, until he got really infatuated about 
her. Miss Langworthy at that time lacked the experience 
she at present possessed. She was, moreover, carried 
away in some measure by the passion she had simulated. 
Although not really in love with her cousin, yet this 
flirtation had become so sweet to her that when, one 
night, the tide of feeling overflowed its banks, and Regi- 

1 6 False Cards. 

nald told his love with boyish eagerness, and asked hei 
to be his, Miss Langworthy lost her head and assented. 
Reflection came upon the morrow, and then Marion 
admitted to herself that this was by no means the match 
she aspired to. But the taking back her plighted troth 
of the night before was hardly feasible, and, moreover, 
she could not quite make up her mind to dispel so soon 
the sunny dream that she was wrapped in. Her feelings 
were to some extent interested. In fact, she was about 
as nearly in love as women of Marion's type ever fall. 
She insisted that their engagement should be kept a 
secret for the present, most thoroughly enjoyed the 
remainder of her visit, and left Aldringham Reginald 
Holbourne's promised bride. 

At this time Miss Langworthy was the only child of a 
merchant reputed wealthy. Her father kept a very good 
house, and entertained largely, in the town of Hull. 
Marion was looked upon as a catch, a girl who at her 
father's death would inherit many thousands, and she 
was not at all the young lady to overlook this fact in her 
matrimonial calculations. Miss Langworthy aspired to 
position. She wished to marry into the county families. 
As for her engagement to her cousin, that was, of course, 
all nonsense. It was rather nice getting those passionate, 
boyish letters at present, but, of course, all that would 
have to be put a stop to whenever anything eligible 
should turn up. " In the meantime it is very pleasant, 
and good for him too, poor boy," thought Miss Lang- 
worthy. "It keeps him out of mischief! " And with this 
salve to her conscience, Marion still adhered to her troth. 

But an epidemic swept the town of Hull, and amongst 
those stricken were Marion's parents. She nursed them 
with exemplary patience and assiduity, but their kismet 
was written, and neither their daughter's care nor atten- 
tion could turn the destroyer from his course. Never 
had Marion shown higher qualities than she did at this 
crisis of her life. She was a devoted nurse. Help, of 
course, she was obliged to call in; but as far as her 
strength lay, she permitted no one to usurp her place. 
Cool, calm, and with steady nerves, the doctors freely 
admitted her value in the sick-room. When urged to 

Marion Langworthy. I* 

spare herself in some measure, she answered, "I am 
strong — I husband my strength carefully, because i 
know I shall want it all. But while it lasts my duty is 
to my parents." When all was over, she, as might have 
been expected, to some extent broke down herself. She 
was ill for some weeks, and then her uncle Holbourne 
took her back to Aldringham for change of air. 

On looking into the affairs of the deceased Mr. Lang- 
worthy, it was found that his estate would not very 
much more than cover his liabilities. That Marion, far 
from being an heiress, was the inheritor of not quite 
two thousand pounds. To a girl with Marion's am- 
bition, this change in her worldly position was a bitter 
disappointment. But one thing appeared clear to her 
mind — to wit, that there must be no doubt about her 
engagement with her cousin now. 

She had been at Aldringham some three weeks, and 
was sitting very pale and sad in her black draperies one 
afternoon, when, without any warning, her lover stood 
suddenly before her. Her nerves had been rather shaken 
by her illness, and the sad events that had preceeded it. 
She could not refrain from a slight cry, and hysterical 
symptoms of agitation, at his abrupt appearance. No 
finesse she could have used would have answered her 
purpose so well. Nature interposed, and played her role 
for her. In an instant Reginald Holbourne's arm was 
round her, and his kisses fell warm upon her cheek. 

" My darling Marion," he said, " I have been so grieved 
at all your trouble, so wretched because I was unable to 
console you in your affliction. It has been bitter anguish 
to me, dearest, that I might not share this sorrow with 
you. But you insisted that our engagement should be 
kept a secret, and so I could not assert my claim to be 
with you in your agony." 

Little given was Marion Langworthy to tears or un- 
controlled emotion, but she was sobbing on her lover's 
breast in veritable earnest now. At last she raised her 
head, and looking up at him through her tears, said 

" And I was right, Reginald ; nobody knows anything 
about it now but our two selves. We shall have no 

1 8 False Oar as. 

awkward explanations to give to any one. We must 
learn to forget the past, dearest, and look upon it as a 
pleasant dream of what might have been." 

" Good Heavens ! Marion, what can you mean ? " 

"Mean," she returned sadly, with her clasped hands 
resting on his shoulder — " that I restore you your troth 
— that all must be over between us — that henceforth 
we must be cousins to each other, and nothing more." 

" And why ? What have I done ? If you no longer 
loved me, you would hardly speak to me as you do 
now ! " exclaimed her lover, passionately. 

" Sit down here, Reginald, and listen to me. I may 
be younger than you according to actual years, but a girl 
of nineteen is much older than a man of twenty. When 
I promised myself to you, I believed I should be rich — 
that I should not come to you empty-handed. All that 
is changed — I have next to nothing now — I am an abso- 
lute pauper." 

" My dearest," replied Reginald, in deep, earnest tones, 
" you don't suppose I thought of your money when I 
asked you to marry me, do you ? " 

" No ; it would be a sad moment for me indeed had I 
cause to think I had given my heart to one who had 
wooed me on that account. I think," she said, tearfully, 
" I know you better than that. Hush ! — don't interrupt 
me," and Marion put her hand on his impatient lips. 
" But," she continued, " you have your way to make in 
the world. Do you think that I would be the drag upon 
you that I must now necessarily become ? All must be 
over between us. You will soon, in the work that your 
career entails on you, forget this episode of your life. 
For me — well, it will not come quite so easy. We poor 
women, you see, have nothing to take us oat of our- 
selves, as you have ; but I also in time shall perhaps 
teach myself to forget what has passed." 

To Reginald Holbourne, still passionately in love, what 
doubt could there be that his betrothed was noblest 
among women ? He protested against her decision ; he 
vowed that, if he had no longer the hope of calling her 
his to look forward to, that it mattered little what be- 
came of him — that the beacon of his life was extinguished 

Marion Langworthy. ig 

— that he had henceforth no object to work for ; and at 
last Marion yielded to his entreaties, smiled up in his 
face, and told him that he was a foolish boy ; but that, if 
he really cared enough about her to take a pennyless 
bride, she had no longer strength of mind to say him nay. 

" It's wrong, Reginald, I know, but I am weak and 
shaken by my illness, or I think I should have had the 
courage to decide differently ; but I have lost so much 
lately" — and here Marion's voice faltered — "that I 
haven't courage to throw away the sole thing left me — 
your affection. You will never upbraid me for this 
decision, will you ? Think again, and if you have a 
doubt " 

But here Reginald stopped all further argument by 
folding her in his arms, and, as he expressed it, kissing 
away her scepticism. 

" Now let me go, Regi. You have made me very 
happy, and I want to be alone, and think. Our engage- 
ment had best continue a secret for the present, recollect. 
It looks afar off, but we are young, and I believe in you," 
— with which Miss Langworthy slipped from her lover's 
embrace, and left the room. 

It is now some three years ago since this scene was 
enacted in the banker's drawing-room at Aldringham — 
since Reginald Holbourne rushed from the house in 
tumultuous ecstasy, to sober himself with a long stretch 
over the surrounding down country — since Miss Lang- 
worthy, after gazing for some time into the fire in the 
quiet seclusion of her own chamber, murmured — 

" Yes, I have rivetted his fetters, at all events. He 
must wear my chains now, till it should either suit me to 
release him, or till we are bound to each other for life." 

Mr. Holbourne was a widower — his daughter a girl at 
school when Marion took up her abode under his roof. 
At first her gentleness and anxiety to keep herself in the 
background were quite distressing to her uncle. She 
positively declined to become the mistress of the house, 
and the servants were full of encomiums and pity for the 
poor broken-spirited young lady, who had undergone so 
much trouble and misfortune ; but before six months 
were over, the domestics became conscious of the work- 

20 False Cards. 

ing of an occult influence in the house that rather 
puzzled them ; and it was not long before, at a prolonged 
session in the servants' hall, it was generally voted that 
the quiet, broken-spirited young lady was the primary 
cause thereof. 

"Yes, Mrs. Meadows," said the butler one evening, "I 
have been here six years, and I received warning to-^ay. 
Master says he's generally dissatisfied, and found f&^'t 
with half a score of things he never took notice of before. 
I say nothing, ma'am, but your turn will come next ; and 
mark me, Miss Langworthy's at the bottom of it." 

" I don't know what to think," replied the house- 
keeper. " She rarely finds fault with anything, and 
never, to do her justice, without cause, and she's as quiet 
and mild-spoken a young lady as needs be ; but there's 
no denying master's changed since she came." 

" Of course he is ! She can twist him round her little 
finger ; and if she don't say nothing to us she does to 
him. I've watched her of late, and just got to know a 
certain look of hers when things don't go to her liking. 
When I see that, I know it'll be unpleasant for some one 
before twenty-four hours are over." 

The butler was perfectly right. Before another three 
months had elapsed Mrs. Meadows had also received her 
conge, and by the end of the year Marion was thoroughly 
established as mistress of her uncle's house. She speedily 
acquired great influence over him. The banker's grand- 
iose manner imposed not a whit upon his sharp-witted 
niece ; she thoroughly read the weak, vain character that 
lay underneath the pompous, patronizing manner. The 
keynote to the man's character was his inordinate vanity, 
and Marion played upon it as easily and brilliantly as an 
experienced musician does upon the instrument that he 
most favours. 



DULL November day in London — one of those 
days that have a suspicion of rain about them 
— a dubious, misty day. Much uncertainty 
evident in the mind of the public as to whether 
an umbrella should be unfurled or not, and the advocates 
of either policy bearing about equal proportions. Ladies 
trot about rather high-kilted ; men who have passed the 
age of appearances turn up their trousers and stride 
through the mud ; fatuous youth, clinging to patent- 
leathers till the first snow, gazes helplessly and imbecilely 
at the sea of mud that lies between the kerb-stones, and 
recoils appalled from the crossings, which present an jrp- 
pearance but a few shades better. More advanced swell- 
dom betakes itself to cabs, and utterly declines to place a 
boot upon the greasy pavement. A kind of day that an 
umbrella-maker might exult in, always excepting that 
cynical member of the guild mentioned in Lacon, who, 
even in such prosperous times, was haunted with the 
idea " that there was nothing doing in parasols." 

Miss Langworthy at Aldringham, gazing gloomily out 
at the weather, and speculating upon the advent of her 
fiancd for the ball, has her prototype in London. 

Staring vacantly out of a first floor in Baker Street, 
puffing savagely at a short pipe, his hands buried in his 
pockets, stands Reginald Holbourne, a tall, good-looking, 

22 False Car as. 

fair-haired young man, whose countenance at the present 
moment betokens vacillation and uncertainty. 

" What beastly weather ! " he mutters. " It's all bosh ! 
— I can't go down to Aldringham. The ball, too, is a 
regular humdrum affair, and Marion will get on well 
enough without me. We have been engaged so long 
now," he muses, with a bitter smile, " that we are quite 
like an old married couple", regarding the easy- way in 
which we take things. We've done with our raptures 
and embraces some time back, and our kiss is no more 
emotional than if we were brother and sister." 

Baker Street is not a fashionable neighbourhood, but 
it is highly respectable, and much affected by people 
with limited means. It has its advantages. You are 
close to the Regent's Park, if you desire fresh air ; undue 
exhilaration of spirits can always be kept in subjection 
by a visit to Madame Tussaud's ; a turn round the 
Baker Street Bazaar is calculated to produce serious 
reflection, and also, when finances are straitened, to give 
an idea of the possession of wealth, as one contemplates 
the numberless articles that one might become the pos- 
sessor of for a shilling. You feel more respect for the 
shillings in your pocket as you leave it and meditate 
upon how many things were within your compass had 
you chosen to have been extravagant. Besides, it is 
close to the underground railway, and when your busi- 
ness takes you daily to the City, that is a consideration. 
Now, Reginald Holbourne was at present in a large finan- 
cial house in the neighbourhood of Cannon Street, and 
this last advantage had principally decided him upon 
taking up his abode in this locality. 

Still gazing out of the window, still undecided about 
whether he shall go to Aldringham or not, still mutter- 
ing disparaging remarks on the weather and emitting 
heavy clouds of smoke from under his moustache, he is 
suddenly roused from his musing by the quick rattle of a 
hansom, which pulls up with a jerk at his door. Throw- 
ing up the window, he cranes out to see who the new- 
comer may be, but is only in time to see a man dash 
across the pavement ; a proceeding followed by a heavy 
peal on the bell. A few seconds' delay, a quick step on 

Fast Friends. 23 

the stairs, a sharp authoritative knock, and his door is 
thrown open, and a slight, dark man, some two or three 
years older than himself, enters tumultuously. 

" Halloa ! Regi," exclaims the new-comer ; " all in the 
downs ? How are you ? I havent't seen you this long 
while — but we've no time to spare. Throw some things 
into a portmanteau, and come away to Aldringham. 
Aldringham — bless it ! — is about to be festive ! Aldring- 
gham, relieved from its normal dullness, I pine to see. 
Aldringham is going to dance ; and heaven forfend that I 
should not endeavour to support Aldringham in such 
wild revelry ! " 

" You go to Aldringham ? " exclaimed Holbourne, 
with open-eyed astonishment. 

"Why not ? My respected progenitor, as all Aldring- 
ham are doubtless aware, has duly cursed and discarded 
me ; but ' a man's a man for a' that.' I don't suppose 
it will be much shock to Sir John — slight disappoint- 
ment, perhaps — to see that I have still decent clothes to 
my back. But, although I have no wish to intrude upon 
my affectionate father, a public assembly is public ground, 
and if he can't breathe the same air as his son for two or 
three hours, he can order his carriage — I shall dance my 
gayest, whatever betide. But there's no time to be 
lost — look alive, and bundle up your traps ! " 

Reckless Charlie Collingham had turned the scale, and 
within an hour the two friends were speeding through 
the darkness on their way to Aldringham. 

What had been the cause of such a bitter quarrel 
between Sir John and his younger son, had been a 
subject that, five years ago, had perplexed the Aldring- 
ham neighbourhood terribly. Wild, Charlie Collingham 
had always been, and little amenable to authority from 
his youth upwards ; but there had never been rumour of 
misdemeanour so heinous as to warrant the extreme step 
his father had at last taken regarding him. He had cast 
him off utterly, and forbidden him his house. The two 
kept their own counsel, and the neighbourhood was no 
wiser than it was upon the first discovery of the rupture. 
How Charlie Collingham lived was a mystery to most 
of his former acquaintances; but then there was no gain- 

24 fialse Cards. 

saying that something or somebody had waxed propitious, 
and provided him with ways and means. You saw him 
about town constantly, always well-dressed, and with an 
easy smile on his countenance. Now strolling in the 
park, now assisting at a "first night" — now at Lady 
Dumdrum's crush. You ran against him in club smoking- 
rooms, at the Royal Academy, at Greenwich dinners of 
the theatrical type. He had been seen at a Communist 
meeting on Clerkenwell Green on the Sunday, and 
noticed on a drag at Hampton on the Cup-day in the 
same week. Everybody seemed to know him ; and he 
seemed, moreover, to be on familiar terms with a large 
circle of mysterious acquaintances, whose pursuits or 
status were not understanded of society. 

Conversation which had been brisk enough at starting, 
had died out between them, and the two young men 
smoked on in silence. Suddenly Collingham asked, 
abruptly : " Do you ever see anything of my brother 
down there ? " 

" Well, not a great deal. We see him occasionally ; 
but I don't think he affects Aldringham much." 

" He'll be there to-night, I suppose ? " 

" Yes, I should think so. You and he don't hit it off 
very well — do you ? " 

" Pooh ! my dear fellow, a younger son never quite 
gets on with the heir to the property ; but Robert and I 
don't pull amiss. We haven't met for over three years, 
and we never write, so that we must be on tolerable 

" One way of looking at it," laughed Holbourne ; 
" but you might make the same observations relative to 
your father." 

" Hold your tongue, Reginald," said the other curtly, 
" and don't talk about what you don't understand. That 
has passed between me and my father that is not likely 
to be soon expunged from our memories. I can only say, 
if it all had to be done again, I should act in the same 

How far Charlie Collingham is justified in this asser- 
tion, we shall see further on, when the history of that 
quarrel comes to be related. As a rule* we are more apt 

Fast Friends. 2$ 

to take 'ip the opposite line of argument — to whimper 
over out mistakes in life, to make moan over our past 
iniquities, and vow that if our time could come over 
again we would act with more judgment, and steel our- 
selves against temptation. And yet we constantly see 
that the stripes dealt out to us carry but little influence — 
that our punishment once endured, the atonement once 
made, we are little wiser, and not a whit the better for 
the infliction. We shriek forth promises of amendment 
when our sin finds us out ; but the consequences once 
overcome, we are ready to commit ourselves once more. 
I never myself can withold a certain amount of admira- 
tion for those who honestly own that they should pro- 
bably fall again under similar temptation. There is much 
to be said in praise of the blunt truthfulness of the semi- 
sober sailor who was leaving Portsdown Fair at the 
expiration of his three days' revel. His leave was up, 
and sadly and sorrowfully he was making his way back 
to his ship lying at Spithead. The dire effects of copious 
libations racked his miserable brain. On his road an ass 
confronted him and brayed. He stopped, stared, scratched 
his poll, and again the ass gave vent to a hideous hee- 

" Well, I'm blessed ! " exclaimed this impenitent 
sinner, "but if you had my head and I had your voice, 
I'd go back to the fair :" 

It is not often that we have the honesty to acknowledge 
that, as Rochefoucault puts it, " our vices have left us, 
and not we them." 

But by this our travellers here reached Aldringham, 
and are now seeking their portmanteaus at the luggage 

" Too late for you to go home, Reginald. You had 
better come up to the ' George ' and have some dinner 
with me. Dress there, and accompany your people back 

" Yes, I think that will be best — come along." 

The " George " is naturally in a simmer of excite- 
ment, in the flood-tide of business ; not only does the 
" George " furnish the supper upon this occasion, but 
divers wandering bachelors, who have failed to procure 

26 False Cards. 

more favouiable billets, have taken refuge at that hos- 
telrie. The young lady in extensive silk and chignon, 
who officiates behind the bar, is inclined to believe in 
much difficulty concerning a bed-room. Charlie takes 
the thing out of her hands in the airiest manner 

" Pray don't trouble yourself; just let Eliza, the head- 
chambermaid, know that Mr. Charles Collingham must 
have a bed-room, and I shall find one right enough, let 
who will go without." 

In the coffee-room things wore a different aspect. 
Both the young men were well known to the head- 
waiter, and immediately commanded his special care and 
attention. Two or three of the diners there recognised 
Collingham, and came across to speak to him ; he had 
been very popular in the country before his rupture with 
his father, but since that he had never been seen in Ald- 
ringham till to-night. His re-appearance naturally gives 
rise to much talk and conjecture. Mr. Withers, the 
landlord, has confidentially informed some half score or 
bo of intimates that " it's all right again, you know, 
between Mr. Charles and Sir John. He's come down 
a-purpose to this ball, so that the neighbourhood may 
see they're friends again." 

Perhaps no one was more lost in speculation on the 
subject than Reginald Holbourne. While Charlie was 
laughing and chatting with old friends after dinner, 
Reginald sat sipping his claret, and turning the thing 
over and over in his mind. That no reconciliation had 
taken place between father and son, Collingham's speech 
in the train was warranty for. Then what, after so long 
an absence, could bring him toAldringham ? In the hurry 
of their journey this had not occurred to him so forcibly 
as it did now. But the subject of these reflections suddenly 
touches him on the shoulder, and exclaims, 

" Come along -and dress, old man. It's time to 
get our dress toggery on. It's to be a big ball, they 
tell me." 

Reginald's thoughts, as he leisurely arrayed himself, 
were by no means those of a young man preparing for a 
ball at which he is to meet the lady of his love. Sad to 

Fast Friends. 27 

say, during the last year Reginald has had a dim mis- 
giving that his engagement to his cousin is a mistake. 
He blames himself severely on the subject, and still 
thoroughly declines to admit that he is not strongly 
attached to her. He tries hard to cheat himself into the 
belief that his love is merely sobered down, as is invariably 
the case in a long engagement — that ardent passion has 
subsided into a holier flame, that of love based upon trust 
and esteem. And yet an undefined feeling of uneasiness 
comes over him ever and anon, which Reginald strives 
manfully to put away. It is very odd ; times were when 
his pen ran fluent enough, and he covered sheets when- 
ever he sat himself down to hold commune with Marion. 
Now writing to her is an effort, and he has to cast about 
much for something to say. He is sometimes sadly aware 
of a want of warmth in these epistles as he glances over 
them. He is seized with fits of penitence on such occa- 
sions, tears them up, and writes others, which, if they 
are no warmer, are, at all events, more plentifully 
sprinkled with terms of endearment. He is stricken, 
at times, with remorse for shortcoming in corres- 

Direst composition that humanity ever pens are these 
mock love-letters. No sadder task than to have to work 
the bellows to keep the embers of an expiring passion 
alive. " No disguise can long conceal love where it is, 
nor feign it where it is not ! " saith the French philosopher. 
Reginald, at the present, is struggling hard to perform all 
this to her to whom his troth is plighted. That he won 
Marion's love as an heiress seems to him an insuperable 
bar to any change in their relations, now that she is no 
longer such. Reginald is a man of high feeling and prin- 
ciple, and would hold the man of small account who 
could abandon his betrothed because fortune had dealt 
hardly with her. It was all the more reason, in his eyes, 
that he should be bound by his engagement. Nobody 
was more aware of Reginald's sentiments on such points 
than Marion Langworthy, and, selfish schemer as she was, 
it at times touched her. But then, despite her vanity, — 
and Marion had a great deal of vanity in her composition, 
— her astute woman's wit had already fathomed that he 


False Cards, 

no longer loved her. Little as she really cared about him, 
resolved as she was to throw him over, should a better 
barti present himself, yet she secretly resented this defal- 
cation on bis part. 



HE fiddles are tuning, and trying little crescendo 
passages, without reference to each other. The 
gentlemen's cloak-room begins to fill. The 
younger men loiter there a good deal, and 
indulge in much badinage while they struggle painfully 
with their gloves. Those who have trusted to the 
Aldringham shops are dumbfounded as buttons fly off, 
and warranted best Parisian kids split woefully in the 
putting on. From the ladies' cloak-room opposite comes 
also a slight murmur of distress — requests for pins, lamen- 
tations over crushed flounces, and pathetic appeals " to 
shake me out, there's a dear." There are pains and 
penalties incidental to all revelling, and the Arcadian 
simplicity of the country ball is attended with its share 
of aches and heart-burnings. Miss Jones is struck with 
consternation at finding that Miss Smith's wreath is the 
fac-simile of her own, although she sent to London for 
it ; Miss Brown has become aware that wherever she may 
take refuge, it must be far removed from Miss Johnson, 
whose more delicate shade of blue completely kills her 
(Miss Brown's) dress. These are the mere preliminary 
disappointments, destined to be eclipsed by more acute 
jealousies and bitterness as the evening wears on. 

The room begins to fill ; the people who arrived early 
emerge from the distant corners in which they have 

}C False Cards. 

vainly striven to hide themselves, and mix with the later 
comers. The knot of young men round the entrance 
door perceptibly increases ; the aristocracy gather round 
the upper fire-place. Sir John Collingham, and his eldest 
son, Mr. Robert, are there — the Baronet grimly civil, 
after his wont ; his son heavily, very heavily genial after 
his manner. A somewhat ponderous young man, whose 
" talk is of bullocks." He dilates upon turnips and 
pheasants with equal facility ; but should the conversa- 
tion turn upon other subjects than shooting or farming, 
he relapses into silence. A ball-room is no " fool's para- 
dise " to him ; but he recognises the fact that the 
Collinghams have dutiee to perform, and attends the 
Aldringham ball just as he would attend an agricultural 
dinner — on principle. He will go through divers 
quadrilles, and the after-supper country dance, from the 
same high motives, and be particular about asking all the 
ladies whom he may deem entitled to that courtesy at 
his hands. He looks upon the country as on the high 
road to anarchy and revolution, and that it behoves the 
aristocracy to make an effort to stem the tide, and, accor- 
ding to his lights, he is doing his best in that direction. 
He would sacrifice his personal comfort and valse, but has 
a somewhat undefined idea that ladies rather fight shy of 
him as a partner in that exercise, consequently he confines 
himself to shambling through quadrilles, and losing him- 
self in the Lancers. 

And now Mr. Holbourne elbows his way up the room, 
with his niece on one arm, and his daughter on the other. 
If Miss Langworthy be not a beauty, she at all events 
looks very well to night. Men follow her footsteps, and 
supplicate that their names may be inscribed upon her 
card ; and she, fully equal to the occasion, laughs, smiles, 
and coquettes with them all. Grace Holbourne, too, has 
plenty of admirers — a handsome girl of eighteen, and 
sole daughter of the wealthy banker, it would have been 
strange had she not ; but she manifests little inclination 
to engage herself deeply, and when hardly pressed, de- 
clares that she is " not very strong, and has no intention 
of dancing much this evening." 

This last observation happening to reach Miss Lang- 

The Aldringham Ball. 31 

worthy's ears, Marion raised her eyebrows, and cast a 
mute glance of interrogation at her cousin ; but Grace 
quietly lifted her boquet to her lips, and resolutely refused 
to recognise the telegraph. 

Mr. Holbourne, having saluted Sir John, plants his 
portly figure upon the hearth-rug, and surveys tb 
Aldringham world benignly through his double gold eye 
glass. As he stands there, exposing a vast expanse 
white waistcoat to view, and greeting them with an 
urbane smile, he says, as clearly as if he had spoken it 
out loud — " Enjoy yourselves, my good people. I have 
had some little trouble in getting all this up for you, but, 
bless you ! I don't mind the labour, only oblige me by 
enjoying yourselves ! " And then he turns and extends 
a couple of fingers to some acquaintance, and gracefully 
dropping his eye-glass, inquires sauvely after his wife 
and daughters. He does all this, too, with such apparent 
belief that his mere solicitude on the subject of their 
health must be of tangible benefit to those inquired after, 
and of extreme gratification to the person to whom such 
inquiry is addressed. Occasionally he beats time softly 
to the music, and turning to the nearest bystander, 
observes, — " Pretty, isn't it ? I made Mackinder, the 
bandmaster, send to London for those." 

" What, not dancing, Grace ? " suddenly observes Sir 
John. " Are the young men of these parts blind, or how 
comes it that the belle of Aldringham is standing out ? 
I consider it a personal affront that my pretty god- 
daughter is not besieged by admirers." 

" Not quite so bad as that comes to, Sir John," replied 
the girl, with a saucy toss of her head. " I have had 
plenty of chances, but I never like dancing much at the 
beginning of a ball — the finish is so much the best, you 
know. I mean to valse immensely by-and-by." 

" You are wrong, child," laughed the Baronet — " at all 
events, more prudent than the girls of my day were. 
They were wont to dance a ball all out, from post to finish. 
Not such cool, calculating damsels as you are, Grace." 

" You will see me dance fast enough presently, Sir 
John," retorted Miss Holbourne, with a little nervous 

32 False Cards. 

" Well, I hope so, or I shall have to ask you myself," 
replied the Baronet, smiling. "Now you know the 
penalty of standing still, I fancy I shall soon see you 
exert yourself." 

Miss Langworthy was too much absorbed in her own 
devices to notice her cousin, or else the latter's slightly 
nervous manner and somewhat wandering glances would 
scarcely have escaped her keen eyes ; but at this present 
moment she was seated in a remote corner of the room, 
exercising all the artillery of her fascination on a young 
Oxonian, who was succumbing in a way most derogatory 
to the precocious youth of our generation. 

It was at this juncture that Reginald Holbourne and 
young Collingham entered the ball-room, and made their 
way leisurely up it. Much astonishment was created by 
the appearance of the latter, and several people stopped 
to shake hands and interchange a few words with him. 
Some of the elders were burning Avith curiosity to see the 
meeting between father and son. He has got very 
near to the top of the room, but as yet the magnates 
there have not discovered him. One pair of eyes, it is 
true, marked his entrance, but they have been turned 
carefully in another direction ever since. Suddenly he 
is confronted by his half-brother, Robert. 

"Do you know your father is here, Charles ? " inquires 
Robert Collingham. 

" No," was the unembarrassed reply ; " but as we 
don't speak, it can't much matter to either of us." 

" But consider what the public will think of such a 
state of things. Surely you will withdraw ? " urged 
Robert, who had much reverence and esteem for the 
proprieties of this world. 

" Most assuredly I shall not ; the public is welcome to 
think anything it pleases, and you and Sir John are per- 
fectly at liberty to explain the affair in any way that 
seemeth good to you. I have come to enjoy my ball, 
and intend to do so, even should every one of my an- 
cestors glower at me throughout the evening ; " and with 
that Charlie brushed past his brother, and made his way 
to where Mr. Holbourne was standing. 

Sir John could not refrain from a slight change of 

The Aldr high ant Ball. 33 

countenance when he suddenly perceived bis discarded son 
within half a dozen steps of him. It was but momentary, 
and then his face hardened to granite, and he returned 
Charlie's low bow with a fixed icy stare of oblivion as to 
lis very personality. The young man passed quietly on, 
aid holding out his hand, exclaimed, 

'• How d'ye do, Mr. Holbourne ? " 

The banker was rather taken aback. He had an idea 
that there was something awkward in recognising Charlie 
Collingham in the presence of Sir John, but still it was 
impossible for him to refuse to do so. You can't cut a 
man merely because he has quarrelled with his father. 
So Mr. Holbourne extended two fingers, after his usual 
manner, and hoped he saw Mr. Collingham well. 

" Perfectly so, thank you," replied Charlie, as his eyes 
twinkled. "Sorry to see your old enemy the gout has 
got hold of you.'" 

" Gout ! Pooh ! nonsense ! — I never have the gout. 
What put that in your head ! " cried Mr. Holbourne, 
swelling with indignation. 

Like most men who have made acquaintance with the 
premonitory symptoms, the banker was very sensitive 
to any imputation that he was ever a sufferer from that 

" Beg pardon," said Charlie, with a wicked flash of his 
dark eyes. " I thought you were afraid to shake hands, 
that was all ; " and in another second he was exchanging 
greetings with Miss Holbourne. 

" You have kept me a dance or two, I hope ? " he said, 
in a low tone. 

" You can have the next," replied Grace, as her face 
flushed slightly. 

"Thanks ; this is just over. Let me take you to get 
some tea ? " 

Miss Holbourne slipped her hand under his arm in 
reply, and the pair was soon lost in the throng. 

Tiddle-de-um-de-dum-de-de, tiddle-de-um-de-di-do, go 
the fiddles, and all the room is whirling round to the 
inspiriting strains of " Skid na ma link." Circled by 
Charlie Collingham's arm, with sparkling eyes and ani- 
mated face, Grace swings smoothly past her cousin, w h o 

34 False Cards. 

mutely wonders with whom it is she is dancing ; for the 
rupture with Sir John and his son had taken place before 
Miss Langworthy's first visit to Aldringham, and his face 
was consequently unknown to Marion. She is dancing 
with Reginald upon this occasion, and appeals to him 
for information. 

"That?— oh! that's 'The Disinherited,'" laughed 
young Holbourne. " Haven't you ever seen him before ? 
We came down together." 

" I don't understand you," replied Marion. 

"Well, it's Charlie Collingham, and his father cut 
him here dead to-night." 

" How foolish of Grace ! She ought to keep clear of 
such a complication," said Miss Langworthy. 

" Why, good heavens ! she's known him all her life. 
Why shouldn't she dance with him ! He's done nothing 
to be ashamed of." 

" You don't understand these things, Reginald. Why 
didn't you answer my letter, sir ? — and how long are 
you going to stop ? " 

" I must go back to-morrow — I can't help it." 

"Always the same. I see next to nothing of you 
now," pouted Marion. " There, never mind," she con- 
tinued hurriedly, seeing that he was about to expostulate. 
" I'm not going to scold or quarrel. I suppose it must be 
so ; and I won't be unreasonable. Let's have a galope 
now, Reginald ; I must make the most of you during the 
short time I have you here." And Marion smiled fondly 
up in his face." 

It was at moments like these that Reginald Holbourne 
was wont to be seized with twinges of conscience, and 
feel angry with himself at the way in which his love for 
his cousin had so unaccountably died away. Manfully as 
he strove to shut his eyes to the fact, he could not 
altogether conceal it from himself. When she up- 
braided him or quarrelled with him — and she often 
did both — he felt sadly that it would be perhaps 
better if all were over between them ; but when she 
was all softness and affection, as it pleased her to 
be this evening, he blamed himself for the half-hearted 
return he was making for the love that he had won. 

The Aldringhmn Ball. Sj 5 

He was a good way off understanding Marion Langworthy 
as yet. 

But the music has ceased, and people crowd down to 
supper — to devour tough chicken and ill-cooked ham, to 
imbibe tepid Marsala and sweet Champagne — to sit upon 
narrow benches and straight-backed chairs, to struggle 
for clean plates and cry piteously for clean glasses ; to 
enjoy, in short, all the tumultuous revelry of a country- 
•ball supper. Stay, there is a couple sitting in a quiet 
coiner of the ball-room who seem above such earthly 
enjoyment. From their close propinquity and earnest 
conversation, I think the most casual observer would 
have pronounced them rehearsing the old, old story. 

" So you did expect to see me to-night, Gracie ? " 

Miss Holbourne smiled, and gave an almost imper- 
ceptible nod. 

" Yes, my darling, I came eighty miles for the chance 
of a couple of dances with you, and would come four 
hundred next week upon similar terms." 

" Don't be foolish, Charlie. T am afraid I shall get 
dreadfully scolded about dancing with you to-night. 
How cruel your father was to you ! " 

" Forbidden ground, Gracie. Didn't you promise never 
to touch upon that subject till I can tell you the whole 
story ? " 

" Yes," replied the girl gravely, " and I can wait and 
can trust, but I only spoke of what I — what all the 
world saw to-night. However wicked you may have 
been, and I don't think you've been very bad," continued 
Grace, with a bright, loving smile, " Sir John might have 
recognised you." 

" You little Fatima, why will you keep playing with 
the key of the forbidden room ? Do let's leave Blue 
Beard's closet alone for to-night. How many more 
dances am I to have ? " 

" Only one, I think. Well, perhaps two, if we are 
here long enough. But mind you must dance with 
Marion. Make Reginald introduce you when they come 
up from supper." 

Downstairs meanwhile Mr. Holbourne is in his glory. 
If there was one weakness that possessed the banker more 

36 False Cards. 

than another it was airing his rhetoric. He never 
missed an opportunity of getting on his legs. A regular 
attendant at all kinds of committees, boards, &c, he was 
always taking " advantage of the occasion to make a few 
remarks." Among some few other primitive customs 
retained by the Aldringham elders, was that of speechi- 
fying a little at the ball supper. I need scarcely add 
that a couple of strong policemen could have hardly 
retained the banker on his seat at a time so favourable 
for indulging in his speciality. Even when the two or 
three customary toasts fell neither in his province to 
propose nor to reply to, it was easy to introduce a sup- 
plementary health. When man once abandons himself 
to this pernicious gratification, he loses all control over 
himself, and can no more refrain from his besetting sin 
than the habitual gambler from the dice-box. Mr. Hol- 
bourne, one hand thrust into his waistcoat, and gently 
waving his double eye-glass with the other, rolls out his 
sonorous platitudes with an unctuous smile, which seems 
to insinuate that he is adapting his oratory to the capa- 
city of his hearers — confining himself to their level, in 
short. This is completely part and parcel of the man's 
character. In the commonest relations with his neigh- 
bours he always bears himself with an air of condescend- 
ing patronage. He shakes hands, drinks wine with them, 
or accepts their invitations to dinner, all with the same 
pompous air of conferring favour — and Aldringham takes 
him at his own valuation. By dint of thoroughly believing 
in himself, he has at last forced all his circle and locality to 
believe in him too. He is regarded as an excellent man of 
business, of considerable talent, and a very good speaker. 
But the banker's speech comes to an end, winding up 
with his pet peroration, that " if the labours of himself 
and his colleagues have met the approbation of the public, 
they are amply repaid for the time and trouble it has 
cost them." It is the final oration, and people flock up- 
stairs again to resume their gyrations. Marion Lang- 
worthy and her fiance still linger in the room. The 
lady has thought proper to be extremely sentimental 
this evening, and latterly she has rather abstained from 
that line than otherwise. 

The Aldrmghatn Bali. 37 

" Well, Reginald," she says at last, " I suppose you 
must take me upstairs now — ours is not an avowed 
engagement, and people will talk. It was very nice of 
you to come, and has made my ball a charming one. It 
seems hard to see so little of you, and know, poor boy, 
that you are slaving, while I can do nothing but wait 
and hope. But if men woo and win penniless maidens, 
I am afraid it must be ever so. Ah ! had I but known 
I was a portionless girl in those early days, I would never 
have consented to become a millstone round your neck." 

What could a man of Reginald Holbourne's chivalrous 
notions do, under these circumstance, but protest in the 
constancy of his attachment, scoff at the idea of Marion's 
being a drag upon him, and vow that the hope of one 
day calling her his bride offered the strongest possible 
incentive to work. 

This avowal being extracted, Marion entreated to be 
led upstairs again, feeling that she had accomplished her 
task satisfactorily. At certain intervals she took care 
that Reginald should be worked up to this point. It 
was a kind of renewal of the lease she had of him — a 
periodical examination of his chains. She liked to sound 
the moral fetters in which she held him at stated times, 
for the same reason that the railway official taps the tires 
and axles of the carriages, to ascertain that there is no 
flaw in the metal. The experiment had proved highly 
satisfactory, and Marion returned to the ball-room in 
great spirits, and intent upon much dancing. She was 
not only very fond of it, but a thorough proficient to 
boot. They do not always go together, and any ball- 
room will disclose plenty of very moderate performers, 
pursuing their hobby with most indifferent success. 
However, the same thing might be noted on other 
occasions. Men will hunt who can't ride. Men will 
persist in pigeon-shooting who seldon succeed in hitting 
one. Ladies will sing who have no voice. And we are 
all apt to speak when we have naught to say. One of 
the painful requirements of society is that of having 
to evolve conversation when you are conscious of having 
nothing to talk about. To be silent is to be voted dull., 
stupid, or, ore ominous verdict still to an Englishmarjj 

38 False Cards. 

" shy." So we pour fourth our incoherent gabble at 
such times, and dread the falling through of our inane 

Charlie Collingham had duly complied with Grace's 
instructions, and been presented to Miss Langworthy, 
but had not obtained a dance from that young lady, she 
pleading that her card was full. 

" I can't say I much fancy your cousin, Grace," he 
remarked, as he told her how he had obeyed her behest, 
" though I don't in the least know why I should say so. 
My vanity is hurt, perhaps, as I could see pretty plainly 
she was by no means pleased at the introduction. And 
this is our last dance. When shall I see you again ? 
Not for another four months, I suppose ? " 

" I'm sure I can't say. I don't even know if Aunt 
Wilkinson will ask me to town this season. She said 
she would, so I live in hopes. Shall I write you a line, 
Charlie, next time I see a chance of our meeting ?" asked 
Grace, shyly. 

" Yes, please ; and depend upon my keeping tryst, let 
it be where it will. Ah ! here comes Reginald to sum- 
mon you. Mr. Holbourne has gathered Miss Langworthy 
under his wing, and evidently means going. Good-bye, 
and God bless you, dearest ! " And pressing her hand 
warmly, Collingham resigned Miss Holbourne to her 
brother's charge. 

Lighting a cigar, Charlie walked slowly home to the 
" George," musing on the events of the evening. 

" Things don't look rosy, by any manner of means," 
he muttered. "The governor is determined evidently to 
have no mistake about the terms on which we stand. 
Old Holbourne was not a bit pleased to see me. Sum 
up. Heads of the two families decidedly dead against 
one. Miss Langworthy not likely, I think, to prove an 
ally ; doubtful, perhaps, if she will remain neutral. On 
the other hand, Reginald, when he's put in possession of 
the state of affairs, will, £ think, back me, and then — 
psha, deuce take all the re&v ! I have Grace herself on 
my side. How handsome she looked to-night ! There 
wasn't a girl in the room to compare with her ! " 



jlHE day after the fair, the morning after the ball, 
the breakfast after the pantomime, are all wont 
to be tinged with sombre reflections. In the 
™ first flush of youth it may not be so, but we 
soon arrive at that stage of life at which we begin to ask 
whether the revel is worth the re-action, whether such 
gay evenings are worth such dull mornings, and whether 
a calm, humdrum life is not most compatible with human 
enjoyment, or, at all events, whether the dereliction of 
our usual habits is to be easily compensated for. The 
shooting must be good indeed that necessitates an eight 
o'clock breakfast ; and the race course should be a mine 
of golconda that involves an early train, when we have 
passed thirty. We have experienced one or two practical 
sermons upon the text of " all is vanity " by that time. 
We have been rudely awakened from some few delusions, 
and we understand Mr. Lowell's lines, 

" What infinite odds 'twixt a hero to come, 

And your only too palpable hero in esse I 
Precisely the odds (such examples are rife), 

'Twixt the poem conceived and the rhyme we make show of, 
'Twixt the boy's morning dream and the wake up of life, 

'Twixt the Blondel God meant, and the Blondel I know of." 

The breakfast party at Mr. Holbourne's this morning 
is by no means gay. The banker has betaken himself to 
his counting-house, but his son, daughter, and niece sit 

40 False Cards. 

languidly round the table, apparently immersed in their 
own reflections. The pale November sun glints through 
the windows, and throws an aureat light around Grace's 
rich brown hair, as she toys listlessly with her tea-spoon, 
lights up the fair pale face of Miss Langworthy, and 
causes Reginald to blink over his egg. Marion is musing 
upon the familiar terms her cousins apparently stand 
upon with Charles Collingham. She is not much sur- 
prised at Reginald's relations with him — that is natural, 
they are nearly of the same age; of course knew one 
another well as boys, and doubtless often met in London. 
But with Grace it is a very different thing. How comes 
she to know Mr. Collingham so well, and why has she 
never mentioned the circumstance ? It is all very well 
for Reginald to laugh and say, " they have known each 
other all their lives," but when Mr. Collingham disap- 
peared from Aldringham, Grace was a school girl of 
fourteen, while he was a young man of twenty-two. It 
was not likely that they could have seen much of each 
other at that time. What Charlie's reason for attending 
the Aldringham ball could be, unless it was to meet 
Grace, she could not divine. And then Miss Lang- 
worthy bethought her that Robert Collingham had paid 
her considerable attention last night. It was nothing, 
of course, to build upon as yet, but Marion esteemed 
Robert Collingham a fish that was well worth angling 
for, if he showed any inclination to look at her lure. 
Meanwhile, she would catechise Grace as soon as they 
should be left alone together. 

This was destined to be speedily accomplished, for 
Reginald, rising, announced his intention of" making a 
few calls in the town before his return to London, and 
left the house. 

Now Miss Langworthy was a great social diplomatist. 
She very seldom asked a direct question upon any point 
on which she was anxious to be informed, and never 
committed herself to an abrupt interrogatory. She 
would from mere habit put people through an insidious 
cross-examination, to arrive at knowledge which they 
would have given her without hesitation had she but 
asked for it directly. On the same principle her views 

Alcb-ingham Gossip. 41 

and wishes on all points of domestic polity were always 
gently instilled, slowly insinuated, but rarely stated 
point-blank. She gave herself much unnecessary trouble 
at times in this way, but she was one of those morbid, 
scheming persons who cannot believe in attaining their 
ends except by indirect means. To use a metaphor of 
the whist-table, she never could resist the temptation of 
playing a false card. Nothing was too small to engage 
her attention. In default of more extensive machina- 
tions, she w T ould pass an hour in persuading her uncle to 
eliminate two or three proposed guests from a dinner 
party, substituting others of her own selection without 
really caring one iota about the matter, but simply 
because it amused her to exercise her powers. Had 
she been born in a higher sphere, and her life been 
cast amongst the politicians of the day, she would have 
been a notable but unsuccessful intriguante. Her par- 
tiality for crooked ways and occult paths must have 
always precluded her attaining any great success in 
modern times, though in the last century she would pro- 
bably have been a woman of mark. She was undeniably 
clever, if she could have got over her mistrust of 
humanity ; but she could never quite grasp the fact that, 
people more generally mean what they say. An un- 
natural character, I grant )^ou. Life would be unbear- 
able if such characters were common ; but, still, Marion 
Langworthy at twenty-two had arrived at a deduction by 
no means singular in advanced life, of suspecting a hidden 
motive in the doings of those with whom she came in 

It is not so very difficult to understand, if you reflect 
upon it. A schemer yourself, and an adapter of chances 
and opportunities to your own designs, you are wont to 
endue your fellow-creatures with similar attributes. A 
confirmed blackleg never can believe in the honesty of 
his associates ; and I should fancy a retired burglar would 
feel misgivings about many most worthy and excellent 
citizens, and picture to himself "jemmies and centre- 
bits " concealed in their railway bags. 

Grace, meanwhile, sits wrapped in day dreams — 
visions in which Charlie Collingham plays a prominent 

42 False Cards. 

part. They are not actually engaged, he has never 
asked her to marry him, but it never occurs to Grace 
that there is any necessity for that formula passing 
between them. She would have replied, had she been 
asked, " It is just the same as if he had — he knows I 
shall never marry any one else." At nineteen we do 
talk in this fashion. 

" Not a bad ball, Grace, was it ? " says Miss Lang- 
worthy. "You seem hardly awake as yet. Are you 
very tired ? " 

"Wide awake, Marion," laughed the accused, "and 
good to dance again to-night, if I had but the chance." 

" Was it not nice Reginald's turning up after all ? He 
travelled down with an old friend in Mr. Collingham. 
He introduced me to him, and I was so sorry I hadn't a 
dance to spare. He dances well, too, doesn't he ? " 

" Yes — at least, I think so," replied Grace. 

" Ah ! I forgot. You are hardly a fair judge. People 
accustomed to dance together, get into one another's 
step ; although, by the way, you can't have had much 
experience in that way of late." 

Grace made no reply. She and her cousin were very 
good friends, but Miss Holbourne was not disposed to 
make a confidante of Marion. 

" He is very good-looking," continued Miss Lang- 
worthy, meditatively. " I suppose you all knew him 
very well before he quarrelled with his father ? " 

" He was a great friend of Reginald's, and very often 
here in those times." 

" Still, Grace, I think if I were you I wouldn't know 
too much of him now. It is awkward, considering the 
terms we are on with Sir John ; and may give rise to 
complications, the which, my dear, are always to be 

"I have nothing to do with his quarrel with his 
father," replied Grace, with rising colour, and a slight 
tremour in her voice. " I know nothing about it ; but 
as long as Reginald holds to him, I most assuredly shall 
treat him as I always have, done." 

I am afraid that whatever the terms her brother might 
have been on with Charles Collingham, woidd have had 

AMringham Gnssif>. 43 

but little influence on Miss Holbourne's relations towards 
the latter at the piesent time. 

Neither the flush nor the slight tinge of indignation in 
her cousin's reply escaped Marion's notice, but she made 
Answer, gaily, 

"Quite right to stand up for an old friend, Gracie ; 
but you must be so changed since Mr. Collingham last 
jaw you, that I almost wonder he recognised you." 

" It would have been still more curious if he had not. 
[ met him last year in town, when I was staying with 
the Wilkinsons — he is intimate there." 

" Of course — yes — I forgot. I remember you told me 
something about it when you returned, but it escaped 
my memory," said Miss Langworthy, quietly. " Never 
having seen the gentleman, his name made no impres- 
sion, I suppose." 

This was Miss Langworthy's way. When she had 
extracted the information for which she had been 
angling, she was wont to turn the conversation off in 
this wise. 

Grace opened her brown eyes, and gazed at her cousin 
in mute astonishment. She was perfectly certain that 
she had never mentioned her having met Charlie Col- 
lingham in London to her before, but Marion was now 
busying herself about some feminine work, and had appa- 
rently no further interest in the matter. 

The abrupt appearance of Mr. Charles Collingham at 
the ball was the topic of conversation at a good many 
houses in Aldringham, and its vicinity. Gossip ran riot 
about his meeting with his father. There were rumours 
of a terrible scene between the pair in the cloak-room — 
certainly it was to be admitted that several well-informed 
people held to the opinion that the altercation had taken 
place in the passage. That high words had passed between 
them, was past dispute. Little Mr. Griggs, managing 
clerk to Stuff and Severn, the great agricultural imple- 
ment makers, had met somebody who had it from a friend, 
who had been told by one of the waiters, that the Baronet 
had cursed his son after the most approved fashion of 
bygone melodrama. Mr. Silkstone, the Curate, declared 
that this version was incorrect ; that he heard from the 

44 False Cards, 

best authority — namely, his servant, who had it from 
Duddles the fly-man, who was told it by a chambermaid 
at " The George," that Sir John actually struck his son, 
and dared him to ever set foot again in Aldringham, 
lest worse should come of it. But that a serious fracas 
had taken place between father and son, Aldringham 
entertained no doubt whatever. 

And, of course, once more the original cause of the 
quarrel became topic of conversation. A considerable 
portion of the community held that he had forged his 
father's name to bills of large amount, which Sir John 
had taken up, conditional upon his leaving the country ; 
another section pooh-poohed this story, and affirmed 
that he had married a woman of notoriously bad character 
— and there was not wanting a third party, who simply 
shook their heads, and wished it had been no worse 
than that. They were no gossips, heaven be praised ! 
the boy was young, and might live to do better — they 
hoped he might. In the meanwhile, out of respect to 
his father, their mouths were closed. And yet many 
people had greeted Charlie Collingham cordially enough 
the night before in the ball-room. 

As for the subject of all this talk and speculation, he 
had simply never gone to bed at all, but, having changed 
his dress, he smoked tranquilly till the departure of the early 
train, and was back again in London before Aldringham — 
that is, fashionable Aldringham — had un-closed its eyes. 

Reginald Holbourne got very wrath and disgusted in 
his round of visits. At every house he entered he was 
doomed to hear some absurd version of the meeting 
between Charlie and his father. In vain he stood up 
for his friend. Had he seen him since the ball ? was the 
invariable interrogatory ; and when he was fain to answer 
No, he was told " Ah ! of course, then, you can know 
nothing about it. The whole thing occurred just as they 
were leaving." It was useless to point out that Sir John 
had left sometime before his son. " Yes, the ball-room, 
I grant you," retorted his opponents ; " but we are quite 
aware that the scene didn't take place there. Sir John • 
is the last man in the world to court publicity, and offend 
against good taste on such an occasion." 

Aldringham Gossip. 45 

When Reginald got home, there was only time for 
him to snatch a hasty luncheon and catch the train. 

" And what news have you gathered for us in your 
wanderings this morning ? " inquired Marion. " What 
has dear Mrs. Methringham picked up out of last night's 
entertainment ? How many couples has she convicted of 
matrimonial intentions ? " 

" News ! " ejaculated Reginald, with his mouth full of 
cold chicken — " well, Aldringham is so busy abusing 
Charlie Collingham at present, that they have no capacity 
to take in any other subject. If he had committed 
parricide, they couldn't be more unanimous in their 

" What do they accuse him of, Regi ? " inquired his 
sister, somewhat sharply. 

" Oh ! they have got half a hundred ridiculous stories 
about some tremendous row he had with his father last 
night after they left the ball-room. I don't believe he 
ever saw Sir John except in the room." 

" Nor I," said Miss Holbourne. " His father's recogni- 
tion, or, rather, non-recognition, was not likely to have 
led to words between them." 

" Perhaps not, Grade," said Miss Langworthy ; " but 
there is generally a soupgon of truth even in an Aldring- 
ham rumour." 

At this juncture the banker entered. 

" Down at last, girls, eh ? and none the worse for your 
dancing, I hope ? You're just off, I suppose, Regi ? I 
hear that impertinent young jackanapes you brought 
down with you contrived to still further embroil himself 
with his father last night? " 

" I don't believe a word of it," retorted Reginald. 
" But Charlie used to be a favourite of yours — what has 
he done to make you speak so bitterly of him ? " 

" London life has not improved him by any means. 
His manner to his elders is flippant and offensively 
familiar. I was quite prepared to notice him and be 
civil to him last night, in spite of the peculiarity of his 
position, but the young gentleman brushed by me with 
a careless inquiry of my gout. Gout indeed ! " and Mr. 
Holbourne quite snorted with indignation. 

4 6 

False Cards. 

Reginald made no response. He was weary of 
attempting to stem the current of public opinion that 
was running so strong against his friend. He quietly 
saluted his cousin and sister, shook his father's hand, and 



Srflil^ H 





•• #V\M 



HURTON MANOR, the seat of the Colling- 
hams, was situated about four miles from 
Aldringham. It stood a little way off the 
road, from which it was approached by a short, 
broad avenue, terminating in a large gravel ring — a 
quaint, red brick, many-gabled house, that had risen 
from its foundations some three hundred years ago, built 
in the form of an E, as was a prevailing fashion of those 
times, and with the escutcheon and motto of the Colling- 
hams in stone standing out from the brickwork above 
the porch. Indeed, the family arms sculped on stone 
were let into the masonry pretty frequently throughout 
the building. Right and left, as you entered, lay the 
garden, but on the left the garden was bounded by some 
thickly-wooded broken ground, while on the right a ha- 
ha separated it from the park, which ran round two 
sides of the house. 

It was a wild, straggling, irregular park, interspersed 
with small coppices, groups of Spanish chestnuts, and 
patches of feathery fern, but not distinguished by much 
fine timber, the necessities of a Collingham of three 
generations back having impelled him to lay sacrilegious 
axe on the old oaks which had at one time adorned it. 
However, the place was well kept now, and fair to look 
jpon in the long Summer days, when the chestnuts were 

48 False Cards. 

in their glory, and the coppices were all clothea in bright 
green foliage, and decked with wild flowers. 

A shrewd, stern, just landlord was Sir John, managing 
his property with a high hand, but with a keen eye to 
its improvement. Little mercy had he upon slovenly 
farming and thriftless tenants. Such very soon received 
notice to quit their holdings on his estate. A more 
despotic lord of the soil never breathed, and woe to the 
farmer who should venture on the slightest breach of 
his covenant without due permission from the Baronet. 
In Ireland he would have been shot, or shot at, years 
before ; and he was not at all the man to have been 
intimidated had the attempt proved unsuccessful. He 
held he had a most thorough right to do what he chose 
with his own land — to turn it into a wilderness or deer- 
forest, if it seemed good to him. But, practically, he 
was by no means a bad, if rather a hard landlord. He 
did not grind his tenants, and would lay out money on 
their farms, once show him proper cause for doing so, 
exacting fair interest for such expenditure. He was not 
precisely popular, and yet his dependents, although they 
looked upon him as a hard man, were fain to confess 
that he was a just one, and that, in his own grim fashion, 
he did them many a kindly turn at times. And that, 
moreover, he would stand up for, and fight tooth and 
nail for any of his own people who might be wrongfully 
dealt with. 

He stands this morning with his back to the fire, 
glancing over the Times, and occasionally casting a 
somewhat impatient look at the breakfast-table. He has 
not to wait long. The door opens noiselessly, and a 
young lady glides softly into the room. She is fair, very 
fair, of medium height, and slight, girlish figure. She 
advances somewhat slowly, and with a slightly hesitating 
manner. It does not seem nervousness, it is too delibe- 
rate. Her delicate hands, too, just here and there touch 
the furniture lightly as she advances. So slight is this 
latter peculiarity, that it would have hardly attracted 
attention, except from a keen observer. Sir John turns 
as he perceives her, and the newspaper crackles slightly 
in his band. 

Churton. 49 

" Ah ! my father, I am late, it seems," she says, with a 
smile. " I counted on the ball last night making a slug- 
gard of you this morning. I might have known you 
better, though." 

" I haven't been down ten minutes, Sylla." 

" No, but you are thirsting for tea, and wondering what 
your housekeeper is about, all the same. You shall have 
some directly." 

She had seated herself in front of the urn by this time, 
and her slender fingers were busy with the tea-chest, &c. 
Once more an observer would have been struck by the 
hesitating movement of her hands. She never raised a 
spoon nor a cup abruptly, as other people would do, but 
seemed to linger softly over such movements. She lifts 
the teapot very close to the spout of the urn, and bends 
her head forward as she fills it ; and, as she pours it out 
afterwards, it might have been noticed that she just 
touches the outside of the upper part of each cup with a 
finger of her left hand. Her arrangements being 
completed to her satisfaction, she exclaims, without turn- 
ing her head, 

" I have done my share, father : give me something 
to eat." 

Sir John comes forward, takes his tea, and asks, 

" What shall it be, Sylla ? There's cold game on the 
side-board, grilled chicken, and boiled fowl here." 

" Give me some chicken, please. Ah ! thanks," she 
says, as he places the plate before her. "And now I want 
a knife and fork." 

" They are just at your right hand, child," replied the 
Baronet, from the other side of the table. 

She does not even turn her head in that direction, but 
her right hand feels lightly along the cloth, and from that 
gesture it would have suddenly flashed across a looker-on 
that she was blind. There was nothing to show it in the 
clear, limpid blue eyes. Aware of her affliction, you 
became conscious of the fixity of their apparent gaze at 
times, though you would hardly have guessed the night 
that was upon her from her somewhat deliberate move* 
ments about the room. But such was the fact — Sylla 
Collingham was stone blind. She had not been always 

5° False Cards. 

so — a dreadful fever, with which she had been stricken 
some six years before, although it had spared her life, had 
bereft her of sight. Long and terrible had been her 
struggle with death at that time, and though the des- 
troyer had been fain at length to relax his grip, yet he 
had smitten with eternal darkness the victim that had so 
narrowly escaped him. Henceforth Sylla Collingham 
was doomed never more to see the blessed sunlight, the 
flowers, the green fields, nor to gaze upon the face of a 

There is something truly awful in the deprivation of 
sight. To live from thenceforth in a density of blackness. 
I have read of many punishments dealt out to man by 
his fellows, but nothing ever impressed me as so righteous 
or tremendous as Eugene Sue's description of the putting 
out the eyes of the Maitre d'Ecole in " Les Mysteries de 
Paris." He was a hideous, crime-stained ruffian of 
gigantic strength and stature, it may be remembered. 
They blinded him, and cast him back amidst the bandits 
of whom he had been chief, and the terror of his quarter 
became a thing for the gamins to mock. 

Sir John, though now a widower, had been married 
twice. His first marriage had been one of expediency — 
he had bartered his title for the rich dowry the lady 
had brought him, wherewith to patch up a somewhat 
impoverished estate. The issue of that alliance had been 
Robert Collingham. The second time he had wedded to 
please himself, although his bride had come to him 
by no means empty-handed. He was a reserved man, 
and not much given to demonstration of the affections ; 
but it was patent to those about him that he was much 
more attached to the two children his second wife has 1 
borne him, than to the son of his first. A hard, stent 
man by nature, his patience and tenderness with hit 
afflicted daughter were marvellous to see. Never did a 
harsh word escape his lips to her. It did not take very 
much to make the Baronet display his bitter tember; but 
if one thing could kindle his wrath to a white heat, it 
was slight, carelessness, or neglect of anything appertain- 
ing to his daughter's wishes or feelings. 

" You have told me nothing about the ball, father ! " 

Churtou. 51 

exclaimed Sylla, gaily. " I must hear all about it, you 
know. Who were there, and who danced with 
whom ? The prettiest girl — name her. Yes, we will 
have that first." 

" I'm too old to be a very good judge of such things. 
I don't think I even should notice how people paired off, 
if it wasn't for you, Sylla.'' 

" I know you do your best, father, to become all eyes 
for your blind daughter," replied the girl, softly, " so begin. 
Who was the belle ? " 

" Well, I don't think any one of them all beat my god- 

" What, Gracie ? I'm so glad. She was pretty as a 
child ; and I know she must have grown up charming. 
I can tell, in my way ; and she often comes here to see 
me. I should have enjoyed her triumph — she is one of 
my special favourites." 

" Then Miss Langworthy looked well — always well- 
dressed, that girl ; and so did the Miss Kenningtons. 
Reginald Holbourne, too, was there. He came from town 
on purpose, and goes back to day." 

" I am sorry," said Sylla, gravely. " He always comes 
out to see me when he is down, and I like his visits. But, 
my father, who did Gracie dance with ! Who monopo- 
lized the belle of the ball ? " 

" She danced with a good many people, child," replied 
Sir John, gravely — " perhaps with your brother Charles 
as much as anybody." 

"What! was Charlie there ?" cried the girl, with 
quivering lips. 

" Yes," returned the Baronet, curtly — " very much to 
my annoyance. I left earlier than I otherwise should 
in consequence." 

" Oh ! father," almost whispered Sylla, in tremulous 
tones, " can this sad quarrel never be made up between 
you ? I know not what it is ; but you two are dearest in 
life to me, and it breaks my heart when I think o'' 
it. Surely my brother cannot have sinned past for 
giveness ? " 

Sir John's face was troubled ; but his answer came in 
cold, measured tones. 

52 False Cards. 

"He took his own way, Sylla, in direct opposition 
to my wishes — nay, I may add, almost entreaties. I 
told him he should be no more son of mine if he dis- 
obeyed me on that whereon we differed. He elected to 
do so. I have no intention of departing from my 
decision. Don't think, child, that it has cost me 
nothing ; I have felt it probably more than he has done." 

Excepting to his beloved daughter, Sir John would have 
made this admission to no one breathing. 

" Father, I can't believe Cnarlie has been so much to 
blame as you may think. Ah ! if he could but write to 
me ! " And the tears stood in Sylla's eyes as she thought 
how helpless she was — those poor eyes to which all was 
darkness, to which letters were sheets of paper containing 

" Say no more, child. We agreed long since that dis- 
cussion on that point could be but painful to both of us. 
I mentioned your brother's appearance at the ball simply 
because you were certain to hear of it from other quarters. 
Let there be an end of the matter now." 

Sylla bowed her head meekly. She knew well every 
inflection of her father's voice, and recognised that she 
should not further her brother's cause by prolonging the 
conversation. All her curiosity about the ball had ceased, 
and she sat absorbed in old memories. 

Her thoughts travelled back to her school-room days, 
when there was no such pleasure in life as the obtaining 
leave to go for a long afternoon's ramble or a day's fish- 
ing with Charlie. Four years her senior, he had ever 
made a great pet of his little sister, and it was constantly 
due to his intercession that she received licence to accom- 
pany him on such occasions. She recals long gorgeous 
summer days when they took their luncheon with them, 
and spent hours wandering by wood and stream — when 
Charlie filled her lap with wild flowers, and his creel with 
trout, sometimes giving his rod to her when he had 
hooked a fish, and allowing her the supreme joy and 
gratification of landing it. How he read the wondrous 
stories of Walter Scott to her under the trees, when the 
trout, grown lazy with the Summer heat, refused to look 
At a fly : or shot squirrels and rabbits for her delectation. 

Churton, 53 

All these things come stealing back to her memory. 
Then, as the tears tremble on her eyelashes, she recals 
what he was to her in those days of convalescence ; 
she muses how gentle and tender he had been when she 
reeled back, broken, crushed, and blinded, from the very 
threshold of the grave ; how he carried her in his arms 
to their pet seat under the old apple-tree, that she might 
drink in the warm Spring air ; how he never wearied ot 
wheeling about her chair, and would sit patiently with 
her hand clasped in his for an hour at a time, humouring 
this whim that came to her in that first great agony 
when she was told that eternal darkness was henceforth 
her portion. She thought of all this ; how, with a deli- 
cacy unsurpassed of woman, he had helped her to bear 
her cross in those days when her affliction was still new 
and all-terrible to her. How many a time and oft he 
had thrown over cricket-match or croquet-party to loiter 
through a sunny afternoon by the side of his blind sister, 
and strive, as far as might be, to make her forget the 
night that now enshrouded her. 

Four years had now elapsed since she had heard the 
sound of his voice, and yet, for the two preceding years, 
he had been nearly everything to her. In the early stage 
of blindness we must rely upon some one of those about 
us ; we may, perhaps, trust to several, in the first in- 
stance, but speedily we begin to lean upon one. It may 
be that that one individual has more vivid powers of 
description than the others — it may be that his or her 
mind assimilates more with our own ; it may be (and 
this is most probably the case) that great affection aud 
sympathy have led some one of our kindred to dedicate 
much time to the soothing of our sorrow. This one 
person becomes in some measure " eyes" to us. It is to 
him we look for a true and veracious account of what 
passes. But later on — I am speaking, bear in mind, of 
those deprived of sight in the fulness of their strength 
— nature begins, in some measure, to compensate us for 
our loss. The sense of hearing becomes much more fine 
and delicate — the slightest inflection of voice is noted, as 
formerly was the play of feature — the perception of 
touch becomes infinitely more acute. It is marvellous to 

54 False Cards 

see the ease with which the blind move about amidst tne 
localities to which they are habituated, always, neverthe- 
less, with that slight, hesitating, deliberate movement 
consequent on some little uncertainty as to whether their 
known landmarks may not have been in some way dis- 

The separation from her brother had been a sore trial 
to Sylla. Hot tears had she shed, and passionate had 
been her entreaties to know in what manner he had so 
offended that he should be banished from his father's 
roof. But Sir John was inexorable, he refused to touch 
upon that point. He strove hard to supply Charlie's 
place, and was devoted to every wish or whim of his 
stricken daughter. 

" He cannot be so much to blame as you think, papa," 
she would cry. " A brother who could be so good to me 
as he has been, would never do that which is past 
forgiveness, if you did but know the truth." 

"There is nothing further for me to know, child. Let 
the subject never be alluded to again, Sylla. It is touch- 
ing on a point which can but be painful to both of us." 

And so all mention of her own brother had gradually 
disappeared from that household ; the servants had been 
made aware that their places would be forfeited should 
the proscribed name ever escape their lips. But it is not 
to be supposed that Sylla did not often think sadly over 
the bygone days, and wonder whether she should ever 
meet Charlie again — and now to hear that he had been 
so near her, that he was gone without coming to see his 
blind sister ! True, she knew he could not — that the 
servant who had admitted him at Churton would have 
been discharged next morning ; but it seemed cruel, 
hard, unjust, and Sylla dropped ner head upon her hand, 
and thought that it was a callous, troublous world she 
lived in. 



IJEGINALD HOLBOURNE, once more in the 
old rooms in Baker Street, looks back upon the 
Aldringham ball with very mitigated feelings 
of satisfaction. The renewed assurance of his 
cousin's love ought to have delighted him — that evening 
should have appeared all one roseate dream to reflect 
upon ; but then, somehow, it was not so. He could have 
wished Marion had been a little less fond — no, it was not 
quite that — but he did think that he should have been 
better pleased if she had regarded him not quite so much 
as her own peculiar property. She had made him feel 
most thoroughly that he was her husband in prospective. 
So he was, of course, but though he tried hard to cheat 
himself into the belief that he had no wish to recall the 
past, he could not help wincing when his financee made 
him conscious of his chains. 

If it had not been for the wreck of Marion's fortune, 
he thought it would have been easy to tell her that their 
engagement was a mistake ; but as things were, he 
looked upon it that it was impossible to withdraw from 
his plighted troth unless Marion should herself express a 
wish in that respect. She had apparently little idea of 
doing so. 

He had dined alone in his rooms. His dinner, after 
the custom of such banquets, when cooked by the staff 

5 6 False Cards. 

appertaining to a bachelor's lodgings, had proved emi- 
nently unsatisfactory. The fish had been by no means 
beyond suspicion ; the beafsteak had been tough beyond 
a doubt ; while nobody could have considered the 
potatoes boiled except the delinquent in the kitchen. 
He has written several sulky letters, such letters as a man 
does write whose food has not been to his liking ; and 
now he has betaken himself to tobacco, and the latest 
fiction it has pleased Mudie to bestow upon him. The 
novel interests him, the pipe is soothing and forgetting 
all past desagremens. he takes but little note of the 
hour. The clock on the mantelpiece has chimed twelve 
some time back, and still Reginald Holbourne reads on. 
It is a quiet, decorous house, and the dwellers therein, 
except himself, are usually all in bed by eleven. 

At length he fancies he hears a bell — an unusual cir- 
cumstance at that time ; he raises his head and listens, 
and is now quite conscious of footsteps and the soft 
rustle of a woman's dress on the landing. Another 
second, and then comes " a knocking at his chamber 
door." Reginald springs to his feet and opens it. 

A candle in her hand, the silken tresses tumbling in 
heavy masses about her shoulders, and in deshabille 
generally, stands a slight girlish figure, her face ashy 
pale, the big dark eyes dilated with terror. 

" Pardon me, sir," she stammers, "I am so frightened 
— my grandfather is so ill ! I can't make them hear 
the bell. Help me, I pray, for I don't know what 
to do ! " 

" Of course, but let me see your grandfather first," re- 
plies Reginald. "I shall be a better judge of what is 
best to do then." 

" Oh ! thank you, this way ; come quick ! " and the 
girl glided downstairs, and led the way into a room on 
the ground-floor. 

Lying on the bed, partially dressed, was an old man, 
whose face indeed looked blanched with the pallor of 
death. Prone, nerveless, and motionless, except for the 
slight quivering of the lips, one might have deemed 
that the soul had already escaped its prison-house. A 
slight froth oozed from the poor tremulous mouth, sole 

The Tenants of the Ground Floor 57 

sign of vitality that yet lingered. Gently Reginald 
raised the helpless gray head a little higher on the 
pillow, and then turning to his companion said, 

" Your grandfather is very ill. I am going to rouse 
some of the people of the house and then to fetch a 
doctor. Don't be frightened, but sit here and watch. 
Recollect help is coming to you." 

She stared at him wildly, then bending forward she 
whispered : — 

" Do you think he is dying, sir ? I have never seen 
him like this before." 

" I trust not — we must hope for the best ; " and 
Reginald dashed out of the room. Rushing to the top 
of the house, with small reverence for the sleepers whose 
dreams he might disturb, he soon roused some of the 
servants ; then snatching up a hat and coat, he sallied 
forth in pursuit of a medical man. Half an hour 
elapsed, during which the girl sat with one of the poor 
lifeless hands clasped in her own ; her eyes fixed upon 
the pale face, every nerve strained to catch the sound of 
the approaching succour, A sleepy-looking, half-dressed 
maid-servant sits -helplessly blinking in a chair at the 
foot of the bed ; her countenance expressive of the dis- 
may characteristic of her class under such circumstances. 
Ere hand can touch the bell, the quick ears of the 
anxious watcher catch the footfalls on the pavement. 

" The door ! — quick, Sarah ! " she ejaculates, " I hear 
the doctor ! " 

Another moment, and Reginald Holbourne, accom- 
panied by a dark, florid, stout, keen-eyed gentleman, is 
in the room. The stout gentleman takes in the whole 
scene at a glance, quietly takes a candle from the table, 
and peers into the ashen face that lies so still upon the 
pillow. With practised finger and thumb he draws back 
the eyelid, and then quickly and anxiously places his 
hand on the sufferer's chest. 

" Vital power barely flickering," he mutters. " Get 
some brandy — quick ! " he says quietly to Reginald. " If 
I can get some stimulant down at once, all -nay yet be 
well, but his life at present trembles in the ba.ance." 

Holbourne runs up to his own room, snatches a bottle 

$8 False Cards. 

from a spirit-case, and is back again in a minute. He 
raises the patient's head, in accordance with the doctor's 
directions, and the latter cautiously introduces the spirit 
between the bloodless lips. At first his efforts seem un- 
availing, but gradually some few drops of the liquid find 
their way down the unconscious man's throat ; even that 
little seems to rouse him into a spasmodic effort to swal- 
low, and the doctor's face lightens as he at last succeeds 
in administering very nearly a table -spoonful, The 
stimulant tells speedily ; the eyelids flutter tremulously, 
and a long-drawn sigh escapes the sufferer. 

" That's better. Gently, Mr. Holbourne ; raise his 
head a little higher, please. If we can only succeed in 
making him swallow that dose over again, we shall do." 

Once more are their efforts crowned with success ; the 
patient opens his eyes, and gazes feebly about him. With 
Reginald's help the old gentleman was now rapidly put 
to bed. Mutely had his grandchild hovered about the 
room, giving deft assistance as far as lay in her power. 

" You, I suppose, are his nurse ? " said the doctor, 
addressing her, when he had got all arranged to his satis- 
faction. Give him a table-spoonful of brandy mixed with 
another of cold water every four hours, till I see you 
again. I shall call in the morning ; and mind he is kept 

" Will he recover, sir ? " said the girl, timidly. 

" I trust so," returned the doctor ; and for the first 
time it struck him how young she was. " Have you no 
relations to send to ? " he inquired kindly. " It will 
probably be a tedious illness, and you had better let 
your friends know that your grandfather is seriously un- 
well to-morrow." 

He had gathered the relationship that existed between 
them from Holbourne on his way thither. 

" He has only me, as I have only him," returned the 
girl gravely. " Good night, sir," she continued, extend- 
ing her hand to Reginald. " I can't thank you for all 
your kindness properly now, but, believe me, I am not 
ungrateful." And then she bent her head in acknow- 
ledgment of their parting salutes. 

" Sad thing, sir ! " exclaimed the doctor, turning round 

The Tenants of the Ground Floor. 59 

upon the doorstep. " To think of a child like that being 
left alone in the world ! I shall pull the old gentleman 
through this attack, I fancy, but his life won't be worth 
twelve months' purchase all the same. Do you know 
anything about them ? " 

" Nothing in the least. I told you all I knew on our 
way here. Good night." 

You may inhabit rooms in a London lodging-house, 
and know next to nothing of your co-tenants ; but when 
people live for a length of time under the same roof, they 
cannot fail to acquire some knowledge of their neigh- 
bour's personality and status. You pass each other on 
the stairs, or meet upon the doorstep. The servants, too, 
are wont to be extremely communicative, and are willing 
to volunteer much extraneous information, should you 
hazard inquiry as to the name of the people who live 
above or below you. Consequently, Reginald Holbourne 
was quite aware that the rooms beneath his own were 
tenanted by a Mr. and Miss Cheslett. He occasionally 
caught a glimpse of a pretty girl about sixteen, with 
glossy dark hair, and attired with extreme simplicity, 
whom he, of course, recognised as that young lady ; but 
that was the extent of his knowledge, except that he had 
once heard the maid-servant speak of her as Miss 

Reginald tumbled into bed, and thought little more 
about the troubles of " the ground-floor ; " but as he went 
out on his way to business the next morning, he tapped 
at the door to inquire after the invalid. It was opened 
by Miss Cheslett in person, no longer in the dishevelled 
state of last night, but with her luxuriant hair neatly 
braided, and a close-fitting grey merino dress, showing 
off her lithe girlish figure. 

" Better ? Yes, thank you," she replied, in answer to 
his 'inquiries. " Better, almost, than I dared hope for. 
What should I have done without you last night ? It 
was very kind of you ! " 

"Nonsense," interrupted Reginald. "I won't hear 
another word about it. Anybody you had awakened 
would have done just the same. My rooms being nearest, 
you of course came to them first. I am glad to hear so 

6e False Carets. 

good an account, and trust to hear of still further pro- 
gress when I return in the afternoon." 

She made no answer, but gave him a bright little nod 
as he passed on ; and, as he walked up to the under- 
ground station, Reginald Holbourne came to the conclu- 
sion that Miss Cheslett was a very pretty girl. 

From this day Reginald's intimacy with the Chesletts 
advanced rapidly. The morning inquiries speedily led to 
his going in for a few minutes ; then he had to be intro- 
duced to Mr. Cheslett, and thanked for the service he 
had rendered ; then, again, the door was often open for 
air when he came home in the afternoon, and if Lettice 
looked up with her bright smile, it was but natural that 
he should stop to exchange a few words with her. 

He had lent Lettice some books, also, to wile away 
those weary vigils she had been forced to keep, during 
the first week or so of her grandfather's illness. The girl 
had asked eagerly for more. Her own modest little 
library she knew by heart, and a fresh book was a great 
treat to her. They were poor, and had to study the 
economies closely. Subscription to a circulating library 
would have seemed, to old Mr. Cheslett, an extravagance 
all unwarranted. He himself read nothing but the paper, 
and some few volumes of plays. To those fond of read- 
ing, and with little or no access to a fresh supply of 
mental food, a book new to them is indeed a pleasure. 

I have heard it said that you must have at some time 
known what hunger really means to thoroughly appre- 
ciate a good dinner. That you must have, at some time 
of your life, known what it really was to live upon two or 
three books, I am convinced is necessary to thoroughly 
comprehend the blessing of an unlimited supply of them. 
This led, of course, to Lettice consulting him about her 
reading generally. Gradually he became a sort of in- 
structor to the lonely little girl. She applied to him for 
assistance when passages or authors he recommended 
proved rather beyond her comprehension. Was delighted 
to pour out her girlish enthusiasm for Scott, Tennyson, 
Mrs. Browning, or Dickens, as he sat drinking tea with 
them. She was a clever, warm-hearted, impassioned girl, 
who had so \x enjoyed small opportunity of cultivating 

The Tenants of the Ground Floor 6 1 

her mind. Such chances as had fallen to her she had by- 
no means neglected, but the solitary life she and her 
grandfather led had afforded but few opportunities. Now 
Reginald supplied her with books in profusion, and Let- 
tice dwelt in Fairyland. She would spend the morning 
over the glowing pages of " Kenilworth," scamper round 
the Regent's Park in the afternoon, and come back ready 
almost to weep over the sorrows of Amy Robsart, when 
she discussed the story with Reginald in the evening. 

From consulting him about books, she rapidly ad- 
vanced to taking his opinion upon all points, and he was 
now often called upon to decide on the colour of a 
ribbon, or the fashion of a bonnet. To an isolated girl 
like Lettice, it may be easily conceived how rapidly Regi- 
nald Holbourne would become all in all. She idealized 
him. He was the first well-educated man, at all ap- 
proaching her own age, she had ever come in contact 
with. What wonder she soon placed him on a pedestal, 
fell down and worshipped him ! 

And what, all this time, were Reginald's feelings ? 
Like many young men in such a situation, he declined 
to analyze them. He was an engaged man, and there- 
fore there could be no harm in showing some kindness to 
this solitary child, whose life was so dull and monotonous. 
He began to feel it pleasant to think, on his way home, 
that there were a pair of soft, dark eyes anxiously look- 
ing out for his coming ; that a pair of quick ears would 
catch his footfall on the doorstep, before he could touch 
the bell ; and that a bright, sunny face would welcome 
him the moment the door should open. It was seldom, 
of late, that he had had to ring. Lettice generally 
opened the door for him herself. 

So Reginald continued to drop in of an afternoon, and 
talk poetry, and occasionally spent his evening in Mr. 
Cheslett's room. Those letters to Marion became more 
wearisome to write week by week, and were a source of 
much mental torture, remorse, and bewailing. 

Grandfather Cheslett puzzled Reginald a good deal. 
He was a quiet, courteous old gentleman, who said but 
little, and dropped no clue from which to infer in what 
groove of life his itcL had a yd. In the earlier stages ot 

62 False Cards. 

his intimacy with the Chesletts, Mr. Cheslett's health had 
of course been cause enough for little conversation on 
his part. But as his convalescence became established, 
Reginald had discovered but two traits in his character- 
firstly, that he was extremely well read in the Elizabe- 
than dramatists ; secondly, that he was a man of parsi- 
monious habits. This second trait told nothing, the 
probability being that Mr. Cheslett was a man of very 
limited means, and had to exercise careful supervision to 
live as he did. Reginald often caught himself speculat- 
ing upon what career Mr. Cheslett might have pursued 
in his youth. Whatever it was, it had apparently been 
by no means prosperous. Lettice made no disguise about 
the narrowness of their means, and laughed merrily over 
the furbishing up of her old bonnets. 

It was one of the young man's whims at this time to 
see how Lettice would look clad in silk attire. Thanks 
to her own clever fingers, and naturally good taste, she 
was always neatly and nicely dressed : but Reginald 
longed to see her in fashionable costume. How to effect 
this had puzzled him for some weeks. He had cast about 
in his own mind for some special pretext on which to 
present her with a new robe, but without success. They 
were walking together one afternoon in Oxford Street — 
no uncommon circumstance with them now — when 
Lettice, pausing before a mercer's window, began to 
prattle about the dresses displaved therein, and express 
her opinion as to how they would make up. One in 
particular especially attracted her attention, and looking 
laughingly up at Reginald, she exclaimed — 

" How nice it must be to have money — if I were rich 
now, I should go in and buy that. How grand I should 
look in it ! " 

" We will buy that, Lettice, if you like," he replied. 
" Let us go in." 

But she hung back on the threshold, and her face was 
troubled. Her cheeks flushed as she said, 

" I would rather not. I couldn't accept that from 
you, Mr. Holbourne. Please come away." 

He had more than once brought her home a new rib- 
bon for her bonnet, a book, or some such trifle, and 

The Tenants of the Ground Floor. 63 

Lettice had accepted it with delight, and been eloquent 
in her thanks ; but, ignorant of the world's ways, and 
child as she was, her womanly instinct told her that she 
could not accept costly gifts at his hands. 

" What nonsense ! " he exclaimed. "I should like to 
see you in that, Lettice. Come in." 

" No, no," she replied hurriedly — " I couldn't — indeed 
I couldn't, Mr. Holbourne. How stupid I was to admire 
it ! but — but," and she looked almost ready to cry with 
vexation, " I did not think you could have so misunder- 
stood me." 

"I have not misunderstood you at all," he replied. 
" It was a whim of mine to see you in brave array. I 
forgot for the moment that you might not like to accept 
such a present from me. Let us say no more about it, 

They walked on without further reference to the sub- 
ject ; but it was, nevertheless, forgotten by neither of 

When the Queen of Sheba presented Solomon with 
two roses, of which one was real, and the other artificial, 
that sagacious monarch called in the bees to assist him to 
a decision as to which was the true rose. There are two 
loves proffering themselves to Reginald Holbourne at 
this present, of which the one is a counterfeit, the other 
as pure as ever glowed in a woman's breast. I wis he 
will scarce need such councillors when called upon to 
decide between them. 



ROOM off Fleet Street : the furniture of the 
primitive order. It consists of two or three 
desks, a couple of arm-chairs, a strong square 
table, on which are a paste-pot, a pair of scissors, 
and a pile of newspapers. A couple of men stand scrib- 
bling at the desks; two more are conversing in a low 
tone at the fireplace. It is the sub-editor's room of The 
Morning Misanthrope, and that valuable journal is at the 
present moment in process of incubation. The Misan- 
thrope takes a disparaging view of most things. It looks 
upon the country as drifting rapidly to destruction, the 
Established Church as doomed ; it prophesies upheaval 
and removal of ancient landmarks. Very pet phrase of 
The Misanthrope 's this last ; it looks upon the intellect 
of the nation as deteriorating ; that its energies are 
sapped by wealth and luxury, that it is enervated both 
physically and morally, and that a few years will see the 
imposition of the yoke of the invader or the rule of the 
Commune. By no means a cheerful paper to find on 
your breakfast-table, but if you think that The Misan- 
thrope had but a limited circulation in consequence 
of its despondent views you are wonderfully mistaken. 
The croakers of humanity are numerous as the croakers 
of the marsh, and The Misanthrope appealed to a 

Charlie at Home. 65 

large class of readers when it first put forth its gloomy 
and alarmist columns. Some people have a taste for 
funerals and executions. The room of horrors at 
Madame Tussaud's is generally fairly filled. What 
crowds will throng to gape at a monstrosity ! What 
numbers still peruse Dr. Cumming's vaticinations 
with extreme interest ! To a considerable section of 
society the dire forebodings of The Misanthrope oc- 
casioned much gratification ; there is a pleasurable excite- 
ment in thinking you live on the verge of all the woes 
of revolution, when in your inmost heart you feel no 
real anxiety about the safety of the Constitution. It was 
that which made O'Connell so powerful with his country- 
men. They enjoyed all the glories of revolution without 
its inconveniences under his judicious guidance. When 
Smith O'Brien and his coadjutors attempted something 
of the same kind, they fell into the mistake of being too 
realistic. Discomfiture and, still worse, fatality, ridicule, 
was the upshot of their anarchies. 

In Ireland to be laughed at is, as in Paris, a death-blow 
to a reputation. 

" There, Drayton ! " exclaimed one of the writers, 
"I think that will do. That's as much as I can make 
out of ' The Communists in London ' for the present. 
It's a good stirring article for elderly ladies or despondent 
Conservatives of the old school, and should induce a 
pleasing sensation of our being very near the vortex of 
revolution." And leaving his desk, the speaker strolled 
over towards the fire. 

" All right, Charlie, I dare say it will do," replied the 
editor. " You know Bullock, of course ? " 

" Oh ! yes," said Collingham, as he shook hands with 
the stout, middle-aged man, who had been engaged in 
conversation with Drayton. Mr. Bullock and I have 
passed an evening together before this. But what brings 
him here ? Has he brought grist for the mill ? — food for 
the insatiable maw of The Misanthrope ? " 

"No. He has come to make a few inquiries about 
the advertisement sheet. Don't you recollect that one 
we have so often laughed over, of ' the rich widow lady 
who wants to meet with another lady of good fortune, 

66 False Cards. 

and a mind above petty conventionalities, and with 
whom she might enjoy life, &c.' " 

" Of course ! What about it, Bullock ? I have been 
consumed with curiosity about that advertisement often." 

" Well, sir, I can't exactly tell you at present, but it 
strikes me forcibly that it is the work of an old friend of 
ours, the cleverest practitioner in his line in all London ; 
a man we have had hold of three or four times, but who 
always slips through our fingers. A regular eel that chap 
is ; he's lived on the public for years. There's no end to 
his dodges or his aliases." 

" What did the clerk say who took the advertisement, 
Mr. Drayton?" 

" Oh, he recollected all about it perfectly. A peculiar 
advertisement like that naturally made him look at the 
inserter. He says it was brought by a well-dressed, 
lady-like woman, apparently about thirty. What do 
you make of that, Bullock ? " inquired Collingham. 

" Nothing that's any good," replied the detective ; 
" that would be his wife, most probably ; quite answers 
to her description, if I am right in my supposition that 
Leonidas Lightfoot is the author of that advertisement. 
But you see, Mr. Collingham, I have nothing to go on at 
present. No fraud has been committed as yet that I am 
aware of. It only struck me, when I saw that notice, 
that was what would probably come of it, and if I could 
make out where to put my hand on Lightfoot, it would 
be useful, if my guess proved right." 

" Lightfoot," muttered Collingham, musingly; "I have 
heard that name somewhere — ay, and met the man, if 
my memory don't deceive me." 

" Like enough, sir," replied Bullock. " You probably 
paid, in some shape, for the making of his acquaintance, 

" Yes, I have it — you are right. I did," replied Charlie, 
with a burst of laughter. " It was at Scarborough. I 
was there with Jim Donaldson, and we were smoking 
our cigars in front of the Royal Hotel, when this man 
joined us, asked for the favour of a light, and entered 
into conversation. He was as pleasant a companion as 
one need wish to meet with, and his cool, cynical 

Charlie at Home. 67 

remarks upon men and manners amused us both much. 
Finally, he insisted upon our having some brandy and 
water with him, for which he paid. When we got up 
he said, 'Gentlemen, I have spent my last three shillings 
in entertaining you, and regret that we shall not meet 
again here, as business calls me to the metropolis. I must 
trespass on your exchequer for a couple of sovereigns, 
to pay my railway fare. I won't put it as a loan ; my 
experience of men tells me they are apt to forget such 
petty borrowings. I only ask you to give me a couple of 
sovereigns, and should we next meet under other cir- 
cumstances, I shall be happy to be a friend to either of 
you. The ups and downs of life are so various, and the 
world so very small, that it is only a species of invest- 
ment after all.' Jim and I looked at one another for a 
moment ; we both then burst out laughing — we were so 
fairly taken in. The fellow looked, too, as cool and 
unabashed as if he had made the most ordinary pro- 
position in the world. However, it ended in our giving 
him what he asked for. He thanked us quite airily, 
hoped we should have a pleasant time of it, and left 
without showing the slightest sense of being under any 

" And you have never seen him since ? " asked Drayton. 

" No, I have not ; but, odd to tell, Donaldson met 
him one day at the Croydon station. He came up at 
once, said, ' How do you do ? ' and then added, ' going to 
town, I suppose?' 'Yes,' replied Jim. ' Most fortunate! 
You once took a railway ticket for me ; I have now the 
opportunity of acknowledging the courtesy.' Before Jim 
could say a word he had disappeared into the booking- 
office, from which he emerged in a few moments with a 
first-class ticket for London. ' There,' he said, presenting 
it gravely. ' I told you the world was small. You assist 
your fellow- worms here, they assist you there. It comes 
to exactly the same thing in the end. The wealth of 
the universe, in its ebb and flow, must, of course, pass 
through the hands of the intelligent. Whether one is 
in the flood-tide or the neap, is a mere temporary acci- 
dent.' They travelled up together, and parted excellent 
friend- " 

68 False Cards. 

" That was Lightfoot all over," remarked Mr. Bullock, 
philosophically. " Some on 'em never pays, but he 
always was good for about eighteenpence in the pound, 
and that's what has saved him so often. If I order five 
hundred pounds worth of goods, and pay twenty-five on 
account, and a trifle more the moment I am dunned, no 
jury, you see, will convict me of ' obtaining under false 
pretences.' That's the principle he goes on. But I 
must be off. Morning, gentlemen ; and thank you, Mr. 

" Always welcome to any help we can give you," 
replied the editor, as the detective made his way to the 
door. " Now, Charlie, if you have any valuable ideas to 
impart, let's hear them." 

" Bless you, I'm played out — sucked dry for the pre- 
sent. I have gone down to the very lees yonder," and 
Collingham jerked his head in the direction of the desk, 
where his still wet manuscript was lying. " No, I'm oft 
home — good-bye." 

Once in the street, Charlie turned his face westwards, 
and strode manfully along. All this was part of the 
daily routine of his life. Upon his quarrel with his 
father, he had found himself left to confront life upon 
something under two hundred a year. He fell back upon 
his pen, to supplement that somewhat insufficient income. 
As a matter of course, at starting he found this very far 
from a profitable avocation. But matters had mended 
in this respect of late, and he was now thoroughly accre- 
dited of the guild, and very fairly paid, to boot. He 
tramps up the Strand, turns down Spring Gardens, and 
stretches away across St. James's Park, up Constitution 
Hill, then, turning to the left, proceeds to make his way 
in the direction of Brompton. Upon arriving at a quiet 
little house in Pelham Street, he applies his pass-key, 
enters, and runs upstairs. As he throws open the door 
of a sitting-room on the first-floor, a man some two or 
three years older than himself raises his head from the 
table at which he is busy writing, and says, 

" Back rather earlier than usual, eh, Charlie ? The 
funereal journal, I presume, was flush of copy to-day ? " 

" Yes, we had stuff in hand, and were not called upon 

Charlie at Flome. 69 

to rack our brains to any great extent to fill up. How 
goes on ' Caspar's Courtship ? ' " 

" Petty fairly. I have been hammering at it the last 
three hours, and done some decent dialogue, I think. 
But ring for Dulcfbella — I am going to knock off now ; 
and the spirit moveth me to imbibe in some fashion." 

The speaker was Jim Donaldson, the dramatist, of whom 
we have already heard mention. He was Collingham's 
great chum, and had been mainly instrumental in put- 
ting him in the way of getting literary work on his 
first start in London. They had been friends at the 
University, and were now joint tenants of the house at 

The room is a very type of such an apartment as men 
of their pursuits would inhabit. There is a writing-table 
under each window ; a round table in the centre, strewn 
with magazines, books, and newspapers — a few odd 
volumes lie scattered on the carpet ; a sofa ; a couple ot 
easy-chairs, and a piano, are amongst the furniture. On 
the top of the latter lie half a dozen or so of play-bills. 
The looking-glass is stuck full of cards, most of them 
having a theatrical tendency ; while the mantelpiece is 
littered with pipes and cigar-cases. The walls are de- 
corated with some good proof engravings, and a few 
photographs of popular actors and actresses — gifts these 
latter to Donaldson, and for the most part commemora- 
tive of successes obtained by the donors in some one or 
other of his comedies. 

But here the door opens, and Dulcibella makes her 
appearance, a buxom young person of about thirty ; she 
is the daughter of their landlady, and acts as parlour- 
maid. She is a great favourite of the young men, and is 
regularly re-christened, about once a fortnight. They 
tell her gravely that it is necessary for their work that 
every time she is re-christened, she represents a fresh 
heroine to them ; and they draw from the life, and that 
it is requisite to keep the model always before the eye ; so 
that it is incumbent upon her to humour their whims in 
this particular — that any mutiny on her part might lead 
to the utter destruction of a comedy, or annihilation of a 
magazine article. 

70 False Cards. 

"It is not that you are the exact image, you know," 
said Donaldson to her, gravely, upon one occasion ; "but 
you represent the rough marble, Polly, which I intend to 
mould into grace and beauty." 

" Go along with your chaff, Mr. Donaldson," replied 
Miss Meggott, promptly. " You can call me what you 
like, only mind, don't forget I have my order as usual 
for the first night." 

" Sophonisba, thy mandate shall be obeyed," replied 
the dramatist. 

She happened to be Sophonisba that week. But Polly 
Meggott was no fool, and laughed over her numberless 
titles as much as anybody. She took the greatest pride 
in the doings of both her masters, read Collingham's 
lucubrations in the Morning Misanthrope, or articles in 
the Magazines, and expressed her opinion freely thereon ; 
while it must have been a grievous mischance that pre- 
vented her attending the first night of one of Donaldson's 
comedies ; and the pit or upper boxes held no more 
enthusiastic supporter than Polly Meggott was wont to 
be on such occasions. 

Moliere, it is said, used to test his work by reading it 
to his housekeeper, and Jim Donaldson always declared 
that he had been indebted to Polly Meggott for more 
than one shrewd hint, after Polly had witnessed a repre- 
sentation, and that he had occasionally either cut or 
added indirectly at her instigation. 

" Now, young people, what is it ? " inquired Miss 
Meggott, her bright, black eyes twinkling with fun. 
" You've been churning your brains hard all the morning, 
Mr. Donaldson, I know ; I only hope the butter came at 
last. But, as for Mr. Collingham, there, he's home 
before his time ; that means watering the milk. You'll 
read washy to-morrow — I know you will." 

" Dulcibella, you are forgetting that you are a princess 
this week, and that washy is a term not in vogue in 
courtly circles," retorted Charlie. 

" No, and skim milk ain't in vogue, as you call it any- 

" Dulcibella," said Donaldson, " you must be more 
careful about your grammar, in your present exalted 

Charlie at Home. J I 

position. I never can get you to recollect your 

" Oh ! bother my grammar ! " retorted Polly, laughing. 
" The reviewers will, may-be, pick holes in some of your 
own. But," she continued, with suddenly assumed 
gravity, " did your Excellencies ring ?" 

" ' Crave my presence,' would be the neat way to put 
it," rejoined Donaldson. " Yes ! thy worshippers are 
athirst, and would fain partake of soda and sherry, O 
peerless Dulcibella ! " 

" To hear is to obey, O Commander of the Faithful ! " 
replied Miss Meggott, with a low reverence, the effect of 
which was, in some measure, spoilt by a palpable wink, 
and she vanished in search of the required potables." 

Polly often entered into the spirit of her various nick- 
names, and, from much frequenting of theatres, had 
acquired a mixed and miscellaneous jargon of melo- 
dramatic language, which she at times produced effec- 
tively in such assumptions. 

" Well," said Jim at length, after he had induced his 
pipe to go to his satisfaction, " what news have you col- 
lected in your walks abroad ? " 

" Nothing much. Stop ! — by the way, who do you 
think looked in at our shop to-day in search of informa- 
tion ?— Bullock ! " 

" Ah ! that's worth hearing about. What did he 
want ? " inquired Donaldson, lazily. 

"A particular friend of yours, Jim — Lightfoot to wit." 

" No ! Goodness gracious ! I trust my esteemed friend 
Lightfoot hasn't sailed a little too near the wind, and 
entangled himself amongst the quicksands of the law." 

" Well, not exactly that," replied Collingham, " but 
the lynx-eyed Bullock thinks he probably may do so 
shortly. You recollect that queer advertisement in our 
paper ? I pointed it out to you the other day." 

Jim nodded assent. 

" Well, that is presumed to be Mr. Lightfoot's handi- 
work, and the swindling of some demented female the 

" Ah ! " laughed Donaldson, " I shouldn't wonder. I 
recollect the day I came up with him from Croydon 

72 False Cards. 

that great philosopher observed : ' The foolishness of 
men passeth belief, but the credulity of women is beyond 
all comprehension.' He further remarked very severely 
on the simplicity of the police, who, he declared, seldom 
succeeded in bringing home a great crime, except it had 
been committed by an uneducated person. ' The edu- 
cated criminal often convicts himself from mere fool- 
hardiness,' he said ; ' long evasion of the law is apt at last 
to induce a contempt for the most ordinary precautions, 
and then, forsooth, you hear of the intelligence of the 
police.' No, Charlie, I shall back my friend to beat 
Bullock, let alone his last observation." 

" And what was that ? " 

" Why, as we shook hands, he said, ' I can see you 
don't believe what I have been telling you. Well, if 
ever you want to test it, employ me to obtain you any 
information anywhere against the police. You shall 
give me forty-eight hours start, for this reason : I don't 
wan't the waters muddied before I begin, and I will 
guarantee that what you desire to know is in your hands 
considerably more than two days before you obtain that 
intelligence from the police." 

" Now, your Serene Highnesses," observed Miss 
Meggott, as she entered with a tray. " Here we are — 
the sherry you alluded to, because it sounds well, and 
the brandy you mean having, I suppose, because it 
drinks better. Now look sharp ; the cork is nearly out," 
continued Polly, who was busily manipulating a bottle 
of soda-water. " Cognac for two ? — I knew it ! Bless 
you, my cherubs ! " 

" Dulcibella, you're forgetful of your noble station, 
and are waxing into most derogatory language." 

"It won't do, Mr. Donaldson," laughed Polly. "I 
can't come the princess, and open such restive soda- 
water as this. Wait till I have done with the other 
bottle. There ! now, caitiffs, have done with your 
guzzlings and gugglings, or, by my father's head, I 
swear " — and here Polly drew herself up, and stamped 
her foot — "I'll — I'll play old gooseberry with you ! " 

" Miserable Dulcibella ! what a pitiable climax ! " said 

Charlie at Home. 


" Don't bandy words with me, slave ! " retorted Miss 
Meggott, striking an attitude — " the door, ye scum, the 
door ! " and with her customary pleasant wink, the young 
lady motioned that Charlie should open it. 

He obeyed, laughing, and held it open with a low 

" Ah ! you're a nice pair ! " said Polly, as she tripped 
out— '-" sweet children, the two of you I " 



LDRINGHAM has received a shock. Some 
roving archaeologist has written a malicious 
letter to the local papers, pointing out that the 
inhabitants of that thriving town are appa- 
rently not aware of the value of the treasure confided to 
them — that their magnificent church is being fast allowed 
to go to rack and ruin. The writer, after a long and 
learned antiquarian discourse, winds up by expressing 
his opinion that in no other town in England could the 
custodians of such a glorious specimen of church archi- 
tecture have proved so unworthy of their trust, and 
stigmatizes the people generally as barbarians, lost to all 
sense of the beautiful and antique, who could allow such 
neglect of the grand old temple erected by their fore- 

Aldringham chafes under the attack, the more rest- 
lessly because it is aware that the castigation is founded 
upon fact — that petty squabbles have for some time 
vexed the vestry meetings on the subject ; that the 
rector's appeals have been a good deal pooh-poohed, and 
that much wrangling has for some time taken place 
about whose bounden duty it was to put his hand deep 
into his pocket concerning these repairs. 

But now much angry controversy has arisen. Men 
have rushed unguardedly into print, and find, as usual. 

The I r tincy tetizaar. 75 

that they have committed themselves much deeper than 
they dreamed of. They have written in their wrath, 
and said that, if that incompetent, incapable body, the 
vestry, would but do their duty, there was no lack of 
money, and that they, the writers, were good for various 
specified sums. The vestry had woke up, and resolved 
that Aldringham Church should be thoroughly restored ; 
and the irritated correspondents of the local prints found 
that they were taken at their word. 

To express indignation requires prudence ; to put 
such feelings into writing, great discretion ; but before 
you place them on record in print, I would advise you to 
think much of it. That cutting, sarcastic letter of yours 
appears so crushing till the rejoinder is read, and you 
never can measure your adversary's power of retort. He 
may be the stupidest man that ever lived, but it does 
not follow that he does not reckon a wicked pen amongst 
his friends and acquaintance. Once embarked in con- 
troversy in print, you can form no idea with whom you 
are contending, and fall into grievous error if you think 
that your battle lies with your acknowledged antagonist 

Aldringham, having settled upon restoring its church, 
of course resorts to raising funds by every conceivable 
method. There were not wanting in Aldringham, any 
more than there are elsewhere, a class of people who 
look upon all such exigencies as a subject from which 
much diversion may be extracted — people who throw 
flowers around taxation, who pick your pockets in kid 
gloves, and help to levy the rate by various social im- 
positions. There are many sources open to these pleasure- 
loving plunderers. You can have a ball, a flower-show, 
a bazaar, theatricals, &c, in aid and benefit of a church 
restoration fund — the latter, perhaps, the least productive 
of all, though by no means the least popular. Aldringham 
thought it would have a bazaar. 

A very good notion this, and, worked with any ordinary 
judgment, certain to produce a profitable return. In 
Ireland, where it is thoroughly understood, it it the most 
poetic robbery the writer ever had the privilege of witness- 
ing. They know something about it in the Canadas, 

76 False Cards. 

but in England the science is but imperfectly compre- 
hended. Of course the two primary adjuncts are plenty 
of pretty women as stall-holders, and plenty of wandering 
bachelors to flirt with them, Don't mind the latter being 
impecunious, they will probably be far more lavish of 
their money than much richer men. I have seen an 
ensign, or briefless barrister, scatter the contents of his 
purse on such occasions in a way that would have made 
one of your county big-wigs stand aghast. It is true 
that you soon get to the end of the one, but then you 
perhaps never get to the beginning of the other. As for 
the trash and trumpery that go to furnish the stalls, there 
can never be much difficulty about accumulating that. 
To a large portion of the maidens of England, collecting 
for a fancy-fair is a species of mild excitement, and the 
occasion of much exaltation and exaggeration. They 
narrate wondrous fables of what their fingers have 
accomplished, and disparage each other's work with 
charming unanimity. Some backsliders among them, I 
know, buy, and fraudulently send the goods so acquired 
as the result of their labours. But then we all know the 
whole thing is a fraud from beginning to end, so what 
can it matter ? In my natural indolence I cannot help 
siding with these ingenious sinners, and hath not Mr. 
Mortimer Collins told us that " to laze " is to live 
long ? 

It will, of course, be surmised that if Aldringham was 
to have a fancy-fair, it would be incumbent that Mr. 
Holbourne should be one of its managers. As the affair 
verged upon fructification, the banker as usual softly 
insinuated that he was the original promoter of the 

" Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui 1'admire," 

saith the French poet, and your social impostor is never 
without his worshippers. There was a considerable section 
of the town that quite took the worthy banker at his 
own valuation, and they, of course, were in ecstasies at 
the idea. His daughter and niece were enthusiastic on 
the subject. The managing, or manoeuvring for the 
management of anything, had ever keen attraction for 
Marion. Here she was on the ladies committee, and in 

The Fancy Bazaar. 77 

her quiet, smooth way was probably the very goddess of 
discord in that assembly. She assented to every proposi- 
tion, and was apparently the quietest, least obtrusive lady 
amongst them. But if Miss Langworthy went the length 
of gently deprecating any resolution that was come to, 
or even bending her delicate brows in silent disapproval 
thereof, so assuredly would a counter proposition be 
brought forward at the next meeting, be fiercely contested, 
and not improbably carried. Yet Marion was never a 
speaker on these occasions, nor did any proposition ever 
emanate from her. But Miss Langworthy was a real 
artiste in twisting people round her fingers. 

To give an instance of Marion's talents. It had been 
somewhat sharply debated as to whether a post-office 
should be allowed or not ; and there was evidently a 
strong feeling against it upon the part of the committee, 
composed, for the most part, of matrons and spinsters 
well stricken in years. Now, this particular avocation of 
post-mistress Marion had destined for herself from the 
commencement. But she said not a word in support of 
her scheme when she saw that the main body of the 
committee were against it, and voted with the majority 
that it should not be. But Miss Langworthy intended 
there should be a post-office, for all that. When the 
meeting broke up, she attached herself to a Mrs. Kennedy, 
who had been a moderate supporter of the post-office 
scheme, and walked away with her. 

" My dear Mrs. Kennedy," said Marion, in her most 
mellifluous tones — and Marion was gifted with that 
sweetest of woman's attributes, a soft voice — " a girl like 
me cannot venture to pronounce an opinion amongst her 
seniors, but I do think that Mrs. Methringham treated 
your scheme about the post-office with scant courtesy to- 
day. As you said so justly at the time, it is a stall that 
is usually productive of considerable returns. 

Now this was an ingenious perversion of what Mrs. 
Kennedy really had said. She, a doctor's wife, and 
somewhat blunt-spoken to boot, had observed in reality 
that " if any of the young ladies fancied managing such 
a gimcrack arrangement, she for her part did not see 
why they should not do so." 

7^ False Cards. 

" I don't know about that, child," replied Mrs. Kennedy 
curtly, " but Margaret Methringham is not given to the 
display of much civility at the best of times." 

That these two had a wholesome dislike to one another, 
of course Marion knew weH. 

" Still, Mrs. Kennedy, I don't think she was justified, 
after a lady of your standing on the committee had 
expressed herself so much in favour of the device," 
continued Miss Langworthy, " in saying that it was a 
senseless arrangement, and only led to an interchange of 
idle mock correspondence, by no means conducive to the 
good of anybody engaged in it." 

This again was not exactly what Mrs. Methringham 
had said. Her observation in reality had been that " it 
was a rather senseless arrangement, and not likely to be 
conducive of much benefit to the object they were 
engaged in — promoting the funds for the restoration of 
the church. 

" I am not going to be put down by Margaret Meth- 
ringham," replied Mrs. Kennedy. "I don't see why a 
post-office should not bring in as much money as any 
other stall. But you — you little humbug ! why, you 
voted against it yourself." 

" I, Mrs. Kennedy ! You don't call mine a vote, do 
you ? " replied Marion, smiling. " I don't presume to 
have an opinion, I merely give my formal assent to what 
the majority approve ; but I don't quite think that your 
proposition was allowed fair play to-day. Mrs. Methring- 
ham is a wee bit dictatorial at times, and a little overrides 
the rest of us. Good-bye." 

If it had not been for Miss Langworthy, Mrs. Kennedy 
would never have given this post-office scheme another 
thought. But her eyes were now opened, and she 
resolved that Margaret Methringham should have her 
own way no longer. 

Miss Langworthy paid a good many visits that week, 
and in every instance did she manage more or less to 
insinuate that Mrs. Methringham had treated the com- 
mittee of which she was president with much discourtesy. 
At the next meeting, when Mrs. Kennedy, who had been 
chewing the cud of her wrath for a week, and fiercely 

The Fancy Bazaar. 79 

canvassing for support amongst her friends, moved that 
there should be a post-office, and that Miss Langworthy 
should preside thereat, two-thirds of the committee 
voted in support of her resolution, and Mrs. Kennedy 
enjoyed the ineffable satisfaction of feeling that she was 
not to be put down by Margaret Methringham, what- 
ever that lady might think on the subject. 

All this was pure enjoyment to Marion. She delighted 
in plotting, scheming, and counter-scheming. The fruit 
that could be had for the picking, however fine, lacked 
value in her eyes. Better far the unripe apricot, which 
had cost an afternoon to wheedle the gardener out of. 

Grace, too, had entered thoroughly into this Bazaar 
affair No thoughts such as racked her cousin's scheming 
brain troubled bonny Grace Holbourne. She cared not 
a wit whether she was to have a stall or not. But she 
was fain to confess that Aldringham was a little dull ; 
the fancy fair was certain to bring people together, and 
then perhaps a dance or two might spring out of it. So 
Grace supported the movement with all her might, and 
worked, and begged, and bought all sorts of nicknacks, 
that could be of no possible use save to sell. 

However, it was all settled now. Miss Langworthy, 
assisted by Grace, was to be post-mistress at the forth- 
coming Bazaar, and the two were now busy penning 
jesting epistles for every one of their acquaintance likely 
to be there, and nondescript notes that might be sent to 
suit such applicants as they had no previous know- 
ledge of. 

There can be no stall in a fancy-fair productive of such 
fun to the proprietors or crowd as the post-office, pro- 
viding the managers thereof are young ladies of wit and 
esprit. I have known a young lady find a husband in the 
superintendence of such an establishment. He had never 
seen her before, but continued to ask for letters at six- 
pence apiece through two long Summer days ; and posted 
answers to all of them, of course read by the proprietress, 
as if she had held office in the black-room of the post- 
office of the French empire. They knew each other 
passably well at the expiration of that two days' corres- 
pondence, and were married a few months afterwards. 

8o False Cards. 

Tt is the only system I know of that admits of pouring 
in a dozen odd love-letters per diem, and is a special dis- 
pensation of Providence for such as may be stricken by 
love at first sight. 

But the eventful day has at length arrived — a delicious 
May morning heralds the opening of the Aldringham 
Fancy Fair. Grace is down, and flitting about the 
garden before breakfast, listening to the mellow whistle 
of the blackbird, or full song of the thrush ; drinking in 
the soft balmy air, and gathering a bouquet of bright 
Sprink flowers, fresh as her own fair face ! At last she 
trips through the drawing-room window, pauses there a 
moment to rout out some thread from her work-basket, 
wherewith to tie up her flowers, and then proceeds to 
the dining-room. 

" Good morning, my father ; here are violets for your 
button-hole," she exclaims gaily as she enters. " Is not 
this a fit day on which to plunder the innocents ? What, 
Marion not down, and she knowing how much we have 
yet to do ! However, there is a bouquet for her all the 
same," and Grace tossed the work of her deft fingers into 
her cousin's plate. 

"Thank you, my dear," said Mr. Holbourne, as he 
placed the violets in his coat. " Yes, the weather is as 
perfect as the rest of our arrangements." In his own 
mind, Mr. Holbourne had an undefined idea that the 
weather was in some degree his doing. " Most fortunate 
I succeeded in making them fix upon to-day. I assure 
you, Grace, I had great difficulty — there was a strong 
party who were all for postponing it till next week. 
Impossible to say what the weather may be then" and 
Mr. Holbourne delivered the last sentence with an 
inflexion of voice that clearly indicated that there could 
be no doubt it would be bad. 

"lam dreadfully late ! " exclaimed Miss Langworthy, 
as she at last made her appearance. " Good morning, 
uncle. Thanks, Grace. How good of you to pick me 
such a charming nosegay ! We must positively be off 
to the Corn Exchange as soon as we have swallowed our 
breakfast. We have got to arrange all our letters ready 
to our hands — in fact, to set our office in order." 

The Fancy Bazaar. 8 1 

Once up, Marion was energetic enough, and speedily 
carried off both her cousin and her uncle to the scene of 

Mr. Lowell laughingly tells us that " perhaps the 
noblest, as it is one of the most difficult of human func- 
tions, is getting Something (no matter how small) for 
Nothing." At a fancy fair the whole ingenuity of the 
man is engaged in the endeavour to obtain, in return for 
his money, not its worth — that would be absurd to 
expect — but something that it is possible to conceive 
may at some time be of use to him. The vocation of the 
lady stall-keepers, of course, is to plunder the male 
creature to the full extent of their capabilities, parting 
with as little of their useless goods as may be in pursuance 
of such design. 

But it is, after all, not the legitimate traders — it is not 
the occupants of tables that perpetrate the greatest 
iniquities. The class that the hapless bachelor, involved 
iu the dread whirlpool of a bazaar, cannot escape from, 
are the privateers — those bewitching young ladies that 
sail about the room, and insist upon your taking tickets 
for lotteries. I once asked a very pretty marauder of this 
kind, in my innocence, which was her stall ; she flashed 
her bright eyes upon me for a moment, and then retorted, 
with a contemptuous pout, " I never take a stall — it is so 
slow ! But if you think I can't make as much money as 
most of those that do, you are mistaken." I looked in- 
credulous. " Ah ! you don't believe me. Well, go and 
ask Kate Sherrington there how much she has taken 
this afternoon; she's a pretty girl, and not likely to let 
you eves aisk without exacting tithe. For me," and 
she laughed merrily, " I have these braces," nourishing a 
prettily-embroidered pair in my face. " I have raffled 
them six times, and I have them still, to say nothing of 
all but five pounds that they have brought me. You 
see," she continued, in a burst of confidence, " I never 
admit that my lottery is quite full, so I keep the two 
or three remaining tickets, and as I make out the lots, I, 
of course, always reserve the winning ticket for myself ! " 

The Aldringham Bazaar is in full swing — there is a 
band playing at one end of the room, and a refreshment- 

82 False Cards. 

stall is doing a brisk trade at the other. Bright and 
pretty look the gaily-dressed tables, brighter and prettier 
still, for the most part, the gaily-dressed damsels behind 
them. The post-office is a most decided success. Miss 
Langworthy has good taste, and it has been attractively 
fitted up ; some of the letters, too, have been smartly 
penned, and provoke much laughter from their recipients. 
Business there, in short, is decidedly brisk, and it is 
rapidly buzzed about the room that you may obtaiti 
some fun there for sixpence. As you can obtain nothing 
else for that contemptible coin in the building, it were 
as well, perhaps, to try your luck in that direction. Miss 
Langworthy is in ecstasies. An ingeniously-worded 
letter to Robert Collingham has drawn forth a somewhat 
animated reply, and a call to know if there might not 
be another letter for him, which, of course, Marion hastily 
indites, and so the game goes on. 

Presently a stranger lounges in front of the office, 
quietly puts down sixpence for postage, throws a letter 
through the window, and leisurely moves on. It is 
addressed to Miss Langworthy. Marion tears it open — 
she has received quite a score, of one kind or another, 
already, but certainly not one like this. It ran as 
follows : — 

"A lady who can show such intelligence in the 
management of a mock post-office, probably dedicates 
her powers to the management, at times, of the more 
serious affairs of real life. It is possible she might, at 
some period, require the assistance of a confidential agent. 
Say for the obtaining of information about some subject, 
or about the doings of some person in whom she might 
be interested — their address, habits, mode of life, &c. 
The writer can be relied on, would be at all times happy 
to place himself at Miss Langworthy's commands, and 
feels confident he should give satisfaction. An advertise- 
ment in the Times to Z, three asterisks, R, would at all 
times ensure attention." 

Marion gave this letter but little thought at the 
moment. It arrested her attention, and that was all ; 
but instead of tearing it up, as she had the greater part of 
her correspondence, she thrust it into the pocket of her 

The Fancy Bazaat. 83 

dross, to bear company with one or two other notes that 
had tickled her fancy. 

Now the writer of that note, as -..he reader will doubt- 
less surmise, was no other than Mr. Lightfoot. If it 
should be deemed that that philosophical gentleman 
was imprudent in trusting himself so soon again in a 
town in which, to put it mildly, there might be supposed 
to exist considerable prejudice against him, I can only 
say that I have as yet scarcely succeeded in making 
known Mr. Lightfoot's transcendent talents. The Mr. 
Lightfoot of to-day could pretty confidently defy recog- 
nition as the Mr. Lightfoot of six months ago. The 
somewhat over-dressed gentleman, in a light overcoat, 
white hat, and flower in his button-hole, bore not a trace 
of resemblance to the sanctimonious philanthropist of 
last Winter. Mr. Lightfoot, in short, changed his skin 
much oftner than a snake. His appearance at the 
Aldringham Bazaar was the result of pure accident. 
Travelling on what he would have designated profes- 
sional business, he suddenly found, as the Americans 
have it, that he had "missed connection," and had to 
wait some three hours at Aldringham before he could 
get on to London. Mr. Lightfoot accordingly strolled 
into the town, and seeing the flags flying in front of the 
Exchange, paid his shilling and went in. There was no 
saying but that something might turn up to benefit a 
man of his intelligence, when he found divers of his 
fellow-creatures employed in cajoling the public. Thanks 
to his previous visit to Aldringham, he knew all the 
leading inhabitants of the town by sight. It was part of 
the adventurer's business. He acquired that sort of 
knowledge about any place in which it might be his 
lot to spend a few days, from sheer habit. He was gifted 
m ith a most retentive memory, both for names and faces, 
and was an adept in drawing people on to talk. 

There are, say the barristers, two styles of cross- 
examination, equally deadly in the hands of a master of 
that art. The one is quick, sharp, incisive, relentless, 
treating the witness much as a bull-terrier handles a rat, 
and literally shaking the truth out of him ; the othei 
insidious — the practitioner is quite friendly in manner, 

84 False Cards. 

he steals on his victim, he drops out his questions in the 
silkiest tones, as if compelled, for form's sake, to put these 
interrogatories, but really caring little what answer may- 
be made him. His raised eyebrows and deprecating 
manner, when he has involved the witness' in a mass of 
contradiction, are very pretty comedy to gaze upon, as 
also is the ingenious manner in which he apparently 
seeks to assist his floundering victim's treacherous 
memory. Had Mr. Lightfoot been brought up a bar- 
rister, he would have shown himself a proficient as a 
cross-examiner of the latter type. 

Like most men who live by their wits, Mr. Lightfoot 
was a very shrewd physiognomist. He had been some- 
what struck with Marion's keen, clever face as he stood 
idly watching the post-office. He knew who she was 
perfectly — why her face attracted him he could hardly 
have told you, but as he stood there, listless and musing, 
it did flash across him that that girl's life was likely to 
run out of the ordinary groove. Inspired with this idea, 
it suddenly occurred to him that the time might come 
when she would want a clever and unscrupulous 
coadjutor. Some of his most successful forays on the 
public had been due to the following up of similar flights 
of imagination. He was essentially a man of impulse 
and great imaginative faculty. He was especially fond 
of wild speculations based on slenderest foundation, and 
could narrate really marvellous stories of how he had 
profited much by transactions apparently quite as irrele- 
vant as the present. Under these circumstances, Mr. 
Lightfoot penned the aforesaid note. I don't suppose he 
muttered, as he leisurely took his way back to the station, 
" that anything will come of it ; but if you set no trim- 
mers, you will catch no fish, that is perfectly clear. You 
never can have too may night-lines down ; and I have 
taken very fine gudgeon in my day with hooks no better 
baited than this." 

Mr. Lightfoot had fallen into one slight error in his 
calculations — he knew Mr. Holbourne was wealthy, he 
knew Miss Langworthy was his niece, and he therefore 
concluded she must also have plenty of money. Had he 
known the true state of affairs, that note had probably 

The Fancy Bazaar. 85 

never been written, and two or three things had turned 
out differently in this veracious history. 

Mr. Holbourne is radiant this , afternoon — he conde- 
scendingly extends his two fingers in all directions, and 
surveys the throng through his double eye-glass with the 
utmost benignity ; he imparts graciously to several of 
his intimates that it was he who fixed upon the day for 
the Bazaar, and insinuates that he had been guided to 
that decision by abstruse meteorological calculation. 
" Pretty idea, the post-office — yes, I thought we should 
succeed there," he replies to some one who addresses him 
somewhat enthusiastically about that department. " It 
took a little thinking out, but it has proved worth the 
trouble, has it not ? " And Mr. Holbourne smiles 
genially, and looks as if that also is due to his inspiration. 

" A letter for Miss Holbourne, and sixpence to pay on 
it ! " exclaims a good-looking, gentlemanly man, suddenly 
appearing in front of the window, and holding up a note 
between his fingers. 

" Quite contrary to rule," laughed Marion, who hap- 
pened to be there. " You must pay sixpence to post it." 

" But you see," continued the stranger, smiling, " I 
claim sixpence for bringing it. It is all one to me — if 
Miss Holbourne won't pay for her letter, I must take it 
back, that is all." 

" I am afraid you don't understand the principles on 
which this establishment is conducted," retorted Marion, 
rather amused. 

" Perfectly," replied the stranger — " on the general 
shearing of the innocents. But now comes one of the 
black sheep, who refuses to be shorn. Here's a letter 
Miss Holbourne must pay for if she would have it." 

" No connection with any branch business," replied 
Marion, laughing ; " but I'll take it in for nothing if you 
will affirm you cannot pay postage." 

" Not so. We are no bankrupts yet in our concern, 
but strict, business-like people, looking sharply after 
our just dues. Give me my sixpence, and take you my 

" Never ! " cried Marion. " It would be a precedent 
that might ruin us. But here is the lady concerned." 

86 False Cards. 

" Ah ! you are not Miss Holbourne, then," said the 
stranger. " I commend your prudence, lady fair. The 
paying of other people's postage is a pernicious practice, 
and has involved the loss of small change from time 
immemorial. But," he continued, laughing, <( what 
says Miss Holbourne herself? Will she ransom her 

" Don't be beguiled, Grace ! " cried Miss Langworthy, 
her eyes sparkling with fun. " He has too shrewd a 
tongue for young tradeswomen like us to cope with ! " 

" Only sixpence, Miss Holbourne. A letter from him, 
perchance, who is ' dearest of any,' and you hesitate. 
Are the maidens of England grown so mercenary that 
they take in no love-letters unless they are pre-paid ? " 

"You exceed your privilege, sir," said Grace quietly. 
" I know not by what right you assume that my letter is 
of that description." 

" Pardon," replied the stranger, " I do but guess. 
Still it is as yet not your letter, since you have not paid 
for it. Is this poor epistle destined to go the dead letter 

" Give it to me." 

" Not without payment. Listen. I am pledged not 
to part with this note unless I receive what I demand. 
The writer vowed that, if I attended the fair, I should 
sell, not buy. For the last time, Miss Holbourne, will 
you have it ? " And as he spoke he extended the letter 
towards Grace in such a manner that she could see the 
address clearly. 

Her eyes flashed for a moment, and then she held forth 
the required sixpence. 

" There," she said quietly, " You show scant courtesy 
in exacting tribute for doing a lady service." 

" May you never be worse served, Miss Holbourne, ' v 
replied the stranger, bowing low as he handed her the 
missive. " This coin must be preserved in memoriam" 
he said, laughing, as he dropped it into a separate com- 
partment of his purse, " that 1 in my day did once despoil 
the spoilers." And raising his hat, he passed on, and 
was seen no more. 

Miss Langworthy's attention had been taken up by 

The Fancy Bazaar 

8 7 

other customers, and the termination of the scene escaped 

Thrusting the note into the bosom of her dress some- 
what hurriedly, Grace turned her attention once more to 
the duties of assistant post-mistress. 



ARION LANG WORTHY, in the privacy of her 
bed-chamber, runs her eye carelessly over those 
few letters that she had put upon one side, dur- 
ing the afternoon's turmoil, as worthy of a 
second perusal. She laughs over them, then tears them 
into small pieces and throws them into the empty grate. 
The last of the little packet is Mr. Lightfoot's mysterious 
note. She reads this attentively, half tears it across, then 

" No," she murmurs, " I'll keep this. If it is genuine, 
it may at some time be useful to know of such a person." 
And so saying, Marion locks it up in her desk, and betak- 
ing herself to her pillow, sleeps the sleep of the righteous. 
Not so her cousin, who is much perturbed by the billet 
she purchased after such controversy. Of course Grace 
had recognised her lover's handwriting on the super- 
scription, and though filled with amazement at what 
could have induced him to write to her by such a channel, 
no longer doubted that the stranger was right, and that 
it behoved her to have that note at any cost. Grace 
paces her room lost in thought. She has no hesitation 
about fulfilling the task which Charlie has confided to 
her ; the only question is how to do so satisfactorily. He 
tells her that he has come down for the express purpose 
of seeing his sister, " and it is you, Grace, that must 

The Betrothal. 89 

manage this meeting for me. Surely you can contrive 
to go over and lunch at Churton, and in the course of 
the afternoon persuade Sylla to walk up to the Hazel 
Copse. It was a very favourite haunt of hers in the old 
days, and if you propose it, she is not likely to say you 
nay. Unless my father should be at home and accom- 
pany you, the rest would then be easy. I am staying at 
Donerby, six miles away, but shall be watching the 
Hazels from three to six to-morrow afternoon." 

Now, Charlie Collingham's programme read simple 
enough ; but then, you see, he overlooked the existence 
of Miss Langworthy. It was quite easy to order the 
carriage and drive over to lunch at Churton, providing 
Marion did not want the carriage to go somewhere else 
in. And in such divergence of interests Grace knew from 
past experience that the case would probably go against 
herself. Then again, providing that difficulty was over- 
come, who should say that Marion would not volunteer 
to accompany her on her visit ? It was true Miss Lang- 
worthy did not much affect Churton Manor. She pleaded 
utter inability to get on with its blind mistress, and there 
was little doubt that the distaste was mutual. Still 
Marion did visit there at times, and it might be that she 
would take advantage of the morrow's opportunity. 
Grace puzzled her little head about these points for some 
time, but was at last fain to admit that she must simply 
wait to see how things might turn out. 

" Well, Gracie ! " exclaimed her cousin, when they met 
next morning, " you never told me about your letter. 
Was it worth the postage ? — for I saw you did buy it at 

" Yes, I gave that pertinacious man his sixpence in the 
end," replied Miss Holbourne, toying with her tea-spoon . 
" It was the only way to get rid of him." 

" That's no answer, Grace. Who was it from ? Was 
it from anyone you know ? What was it about ? Was 
it fun?" 

" No, it was not fun. It was from somebody I know, 
but nothing that would amuse you in any way." 

" I could tell you more about thai- if I saw it," replied 
M>" "^angworthy, quietly. 

9° False Cards. 

" Ah ! yes, but then, you see, Marion, I'm not going 
to show it you," returned Grace, laughing. " I got my 
love letters as well as you yesterday. We must keep each 
her own counsel on those points." 

" Excuse my indiscretion," replied Marion. " I thought 
it was probably a facsimile of half a dozen we laughed 
over together yesterday, or I should not of course have 
alluded to it." And Miss Langworthy eyed her cousin 
keenly as she spoke. 

" And now you are probably making the equal mistake 
of attributing more importance to it than you need. 
However, never mind my letter. What are you thinking 
of doing this afternoon ? " 

" Well, I feel rather tired after yesterday's business, 
and have some letters to write. Two very fair excuses for 
an idle day." 

" I meditate driving over to lunch with Sylla Colling- 
ham," said Grace, as calmly as she could. " Will you 
come ?" 

" Lunch at Churton ! The drive would do one good ; 
I don't know but that I may." 

Grace's heart died away. Her worst fears were about 
to be realised. Should Marion accompany her, then 
goodbye to Charlie's scheme. But as Miss Langworthy 
reflected upon the proposed arrangement, it occurred to 
her that the only object of interest she had at Churton 
was the presence of Robert Collingham, and she could 
hardly call to mind an instance of ever encountering him 
during a morning visit there. She had not the slightest 
sympathy with Miss Collingham, and had a distinct idea 
of having been generally a good deal bored upon such 
occasions, so that at length to her cousin's intense relief, 
she observed — 

" No, I think you must go alone, Gracie ; on second 
thoughts, I don't feel equal to making talk to Sylla 
Collingham to-day. She and I never amalgamate very 
cleverly at the best of times ; and then I detest that horrid 
dog ! " 

" So one o'clock saw Miss Holbourne on her way to 
Churton, in the highest possible spirits. The sun shone 
bright, the trees and hedges were clothed in all the 

The Betrothal. 9 1 

emerald tints of Spring, the snowy blossom of the thorn 
perfumed the air, the birds were chorussing the advent 
of the approaching Summer in strains of sweetest melody. 
It was one of those glorious May-days that send the 
blood tumultuously through the veins, when it is a 
pleasure simply to be alive, and one could sing paeans 
from mere ecstacy of existence. With the most difficult 
part of her task accomplished, and all the exhilaration of 
spirits produced by her drive, small wonder that Miss 
Holbourne descended from her carriage at the door of 
Churton Manor high of heart, and feeling equal to any 

As she alighted, a magnificent Scotch colly, that was 
lying blinking in the sunshine, rose, stretched himself, 
and then walked deliberately forward to meet her. 

" What, Dandy ! " said Grace, as she bent to caress 
him. " Here alone, my man ? — why, where's your 
mistress ? " 

The dog looked up at her, waggi vs tail, and then 
led the way indoors. 

" He understands you, miss," said the old butler smiling. 
" There's little need for me to interfere when Dandy 
takes it into his head to receive visitors to Miss Sylla ; 
but he's curious in his likes and dislikes^ and won't do it 
for everyone. I think you're a favourite of his, miss." 

" Yes, Simmonds ; Dandy and I are old friends — are 
we not, my dog ? " 

Dandy turned round, wagged his tail, and trotted on. 

" That'll do, Simmonds," said Grace. " Miss Sylla's in 
the library, I suppose ? You can leave Dandy to take 
care of me now." 

The dog, meanwhile, looking round on the threshold 
of the room to see that the visitor was close behind him, 
pushed open the unlatched door, ran across to his mistress, 
placed his paws upon her lap, nuzzled his nose into her 
face, giving forth a low whimper as he did so, then scam- 
pered back towards Grace as she entered, and finally, once 
more returning, thrust his nose into Sylla's hand. 

" Who is it ? " enquired Miss Collingham. " Dandy 
tells me a great friend, and Dandy never tells stories. 
Ah ! I think I know," she continued, as she rose and 

92 False Cards. 

advanced a few steps to meet her visitor. " It's you, Grace, 
is it not ? " 

"Yes," replied Miss Holbourne, as she clasped her 
hostess's hand and kissed her. " I have come over to 
lunch, and spend a long afternoon with you, if you will 
have me." 

"You know I will — only too glad," returned Miss 
Collingham as she resumed her seat. But are you all 
alone Grade ! I don't hear anyone else." 

" All by myself. Yours to gossip with, ramble with, 
or do what you will with for the next four hours." 

"Ah! that is charming. We must feed you first, and 
then you shall talk to me, play to me, and be eyes to 
me all the rest of the afternoon. I want to hear all 
about the Bazaar, and half a hundred things besides." 

Luncheon was here announced, and, rather to Grace's 
consternation, Sir John put in his appearance thereat. 

" Ah ! my god-daughter, delighted to see you," ex- 
claimed the Baronet, as he shook hands with her. " You 
ingenious monkey, what an opportunity you gave the 
young men yesterday ! There she was, in her most 
killing bonnet, looking her prettiest, Sylla, and giving 
out that any gentleman in the room might write to her 
for sixpence ! Did you ever hear of such a brazened 
challenge to flirtation ? I suppose a barrow wouldn't 
carry your letters home in the evening, would it, child ?" 

" Ah ! Sir John, I should like to have been one of 
the belles of your day," replied Grace, laughing. "A 
pretty woman was a power in the land in those times. 
The young men don't get very enthusiastic about us 
now, even when we look our nicest, and have on our 
best bonnets. I carried my letters home in mine own 
hands, without much trouble, last night." 

" Shame on the youth of Aldringham ! " cried the 
Baronet, laughing. " Let me give you some wine to 
support you, girl, under such sad confession. Don't you 
think, Sylla, she's mystifying us just a little ? " 

" I think, my father, she means keeping her own 
secrets — at all events, from you. What I may wheedle 
out of her presently there's no knowing." 

" Can you stay and dine, Grace ? " inquired the Baronet. 

The Betrothal. 93 

" Thanks ; no, Sir John. I am going to pass the 
afternoon with Sylla, but must get home to dinner." 

"Well, then, I shall leave you two to have a ' crack,' 
as the Scotch say. Sorry you can't stay, but daresay I 
shall see you again before you go." And, to Grace's 
great delight, the Baronet took his departure. 

Left to themselves, the two girls speedily retreated to 
Sylla's own room — a cosy sanctum, with a bed-chamber 
off it, looking out upon the garden — and there Grace 
told her friend all the gossip of the country, played to 
her the newest music she had got hold of, and sang her 
the last song or two that she had obtained from London. 
Sylla, with her delicate ear, half catches up these airs, 
and is still trying one upon the piano, when Grace sug- 
gests that they ought to go out for a little, such a deli- 
cious afternoon. 

"Yes, we will directly, but I should like to catch this 
first. Play it over for me once more, won't you ? " 

So Grace again rattles off " The Sabre of my Sire." 
Very sweet to the darkness-stricken girl are such visits as 
these. So many monotonous hours as she is doomed to 
pass alone, can you not conceive the sunshine that a call 
from Grace is to her existence ? Ere her illness Sylla 
had been devoted to music, and gave promise of much 
talent. These half-caught airs will wile away many an 
hour in trying to thoroughly master them, and Sylla 
passes a good deal of time at her piano, even now. 

" There," said Grace, as she finished, " I am sure you 
have it now ; and if not, I must come over and give you 
another lesson ; for we must positively go out and get a 
little sunshine — eh, Dandy, man, what do you say ? " 

The dog was on his feet in an instant, and gave a 
little yelp of pleasure. 

" Ah ! trust Dandy to back you up," said Sylla, 
laughing; " He is always for decoying me out on a fine 
day. No, sir, I shan't want your arm to-day," she con- 
tinued, as the dog thrust his nose into her hand— " Grace 
will take care of me. Forward, my man." 

Attached to his collar, and at present coiled round 
his neck, Dandy wore a short cord. When away from 
the house, his mistress often availed herself of this, and 

94 False Cards. 

the dog would lead her safely almost anywhere. He 
had originally belonged to her brother Charlie, and he 
it was who had first drilled Dandy in his duties. Dandy 
speedily recognised his responsibilities, and now was 
seldom far from his mistress. He watched over her with 
jealous care, and was ever at her side if she left the 
house. She had merely to take hold of his cord and 
tell him where she wanted to go, and to any of her 
accustomed haunts the dog would guide her carefully 
and surely. He seemed thoroughly to comprehend the 
names of such places as she habitually frequented, and 
had even piloted her safely to the adjoining village ; but 
on a repetition of this excursion Sir John put his veto 
when he heard of it, deeming that Dandy might not, 
with all his intelligence, give carts or carriages a suffi- 
ciently wide berth, and that he bore no immunity from 
the assaults of strangers of his kind. 

They pace through the garden, in which Grace pauses 
a moment to gather some flowers for her friend ; then 
crossing the ha-ha, they stroll into the park. Dandy, 
perfectly aware that he may consider himself off duty till 
such time as he should hear the silver whistle that dangles 
from his mistress's watch-chain, dedicates his energies to 
shepherding the rabbits, chasing them from their seats 
in the fern to their burrows with much vivacity and 
satisfaction. The squirrels rather trouble his mind ; he 
evidently considers that they also ought to disappear 
underground when pursued, and their persistency in 
taking to trees there can be no doubt, from his indig- 
nant bark, he regards as contumacious and perverse 
behaviour on their part. 

" Let us go up to the Hazels, Sylla," said Grace at 

" Why the Hazels ?" exclaimed Miss Collingham. " I 
seldom go there now. I used to go there so often when 
dear Charlie was at home. They conjure up such 
pleasant recollections, that it makes me sad to think they 
should be but memories. No, let us walk somewhere 

" Not so. Charlie has talked to me so much about 
those old days in the Hazels, when he used first to wheel 

The Betrothal. 95 

you up there in your chair after your illness, 'that I want 
to see them." 

" Be it so, Grade. Ah, that those days could come 
again ! " 

From which conversation it may be gathered that 
Sylla had a very fair inkling of how things stood between 
her brother and Miss Holbourne. 

" Those times will come again, if we only wait. But 
where are the Hazels, Sylla ? — for I don't know." 

" Let me think. I have not been attending to the way 
we've come much. Where are we ? There should be a 
big clump of Spanish chestnuts, and the kitchen-gardens 
beyond them to our right, if I do not mistake." 

" That's all as you say," replied Grace. 

" Well, then, do you see a hazel-crowned knoll about 
half a mile to your left, just outside the park ? " 

" Yes — all bathed in golden light just now." 

" That is the Hazels — if you can't make it out now I 
shall have to whistle for Dandy. It's long since we've 
been there, but I'll be bound he recollects it." 

" I think we shall manage without him," said Miss 
Holbourne, as she directed her own and companion's 
steps to the point indicated. 

Some ten minutes more or so and Grace's task is 
finished. She and Sylla are sitting on the soft velvety 
turf, embowered midst the fringe of bright green hazel 
bushes that surround the summit of the knoll. A 
silence comes over them. Miss Collingham sinks languidly 
backward on the grass, as if tired, and Grace's brown 
eyes dreamily drink in the landscape beneath her, while 
her thoughts are busy as to the effects of the impending 
meeting upon her friend. Dandy, tired of scampering 
about, has stretched himself at his mistress's feet, his 
black muzzle resting on his tan-coloured paws. A quarter 
of an hour nearly has elapsed ; Sylla is all but asleep, 
while Grace becomes nervously anxious for the denoue- 
ment. Not a sound but the singing of the birds or far- 
off bleating of the sheep breaks the stillness. Not a 
sign is there of Charlie. Grace looks at her watch, 
which points to half-past four. Suddenly Dandy raises 
his head, then once more stretches his nose upon his fore 

96 False Cards. 

paws; but the girl notices that, whereas before his bright- 
brown eyes were closed, they are now wide open, keen, 
and restless. A second time he raises his head and pricks 
his small black ears, while the quivering and dilation of 
his nostrils clearly indicate that he is aware of a strange 
presence in their neighbourhood. He is sitting up on 
his haunches by this, and sniffing anxiously around. Not 
satisfied apparently, he gives vent to a sound, half growl, 
half bark, and then plunges into the cover. The noise 
rouses Miss Collingham. " What is it, Dandy ? " she 
exclaims carelessly " All but asleep, Grade ; I think it's 
getting time to go home and look for some tea." 

But at this juncture Dandy crashes back again through 
the bushes, jumps up on his mistress, thrusts his nose 
into her face, gives vent to low whimpers of delight, and 
then once more disappears at a gallop midst the hazels. 

" Who is it ? " inquired Sylla breathlessly, while her 
pale cheeks grew paler still. " The dog tells me as 
plainly as if he spoke that some one dear to me is at 
hand — quick, Grace, who is it ? " and in her excitement 
the girl started to her feet. Another second, and she 
clutched Grace's arm convulsively, as the faint sound of 
some one forcing his way through the cover fell upon 
their ears. "Is it? — is it?" she muttered; but ere she 
could conclude her sentence, Charlie Collingham burst 
through the bushes, caught her in his arms, and kissing 
her, said : 

" Sylla, darling, at last I see you again ! " 

She lay quite passive in his embrace. So still indeed, 
and so white were her cheeks, that her brother thought 
she had fainted. His quick dark eyes glanced over to 
Grace, and she made answer to their mute interrogatory. 

" Don't be frightened, Charlie. She's not gone off, 
though your appearance has been rather a shock to her. 
She'll be herself directly." 

And in a few minutes Sylla was seated on the turf, 
holding her brother tight by the hand, and gurgling 
forth a flood of slightly hysterical questions. Gradually 
her excitement subsided, and she was able to converse 
rationally with him. But, in the egotism of her felicity, 
she had forgotten Grace. 

The Betrothal 97 

Sylla, my child," exclaimed Charlie at length, " you 
orget that there is some one here whom you have not 
allowed me even to shake hands with as yet, and she has 
strong claim to be remembered, too, sister mine." 

" Ah, me ! how selfish I am ; but you'll forgive me, 
Grace, won't you ? It's so long since I've had him to 
prate too — so long since," she repeated mournfully, " I 
have heard his voice or clasped his hands." 

" Come and sit here, Gracie, on the other side of me, 
and help me to instil a little common-sense into this 
foolish girl, who is in danger of losing her head because 
her good-for-nothing brother has turned up again. What 
do you think I came down here for, Sylla, to-day ? " 

" To see me, Charlie," she replied, as she nestled closer 
to his side : " and — and," she faltered, as a jealous pang 
shot through her breast, " to see Grace." 

" Yes, dearest, to see you and Grace together, and tell 
you that you must learn to love her as a sister, for such I 
hope she will be to you before very long." 

" Sylla, don't believe him ! " cried Grace, as her face 
flushed, and her eyes flashed maliciously up at her lover. 
" He has never asked my consent as yet." 

" Not perhaps exactly in words," returned Collingham ; 
" but I think you require but little assurance on that 
point. Gracie, you've known for months that I have 
been as much pledged to you as if those words had been 
spoken. Let Syll? join our hands now." 

There was but lit de of the coquette in Grace. After a mo- 
ment's hesitation she stretched forth her hand, and Sylla's 
slender fingers encircled the clasped palms of the lovers. 

" It is what I could have most wished/' said Sylla, in 
low tones, after a short pause. " But I doubt whether 
our father or Grace's will approve of it." 

" What matter, you small bird of ill-omen ? So I have 
Grace's consent, I care little. It will be for me to clear 
the stones from our path ; and I have no fear on that 
subject. Gracie can trust me?" and he looked anxiously 
into his betrothed's face. 

Miss Holbourne said nothing ; but the frank, confiding 
smile with which she returned her lover's glance was 
more eloquent than words. 

98 False Cards. 

" Let me see if you are changed, Charlie," said Sylla, 
gently ; and as she spoke her delicate hand ran lightly 
over his face, paused for a second lovingly midst his dark 
crisp hair, and then dropped quietly into her lap once 

" Not a whit," she said softly — " still the same dear old 

Dandy's behaviour is worthy of commemoration. At 
first he did nothing but yap, whimper, and career wildly 
round the two, occasionally rushing up, to thrust his 
nose now into one hand, then into another. But after a 
little it dawned upon his canine mind that he was in 
some way committed to a conspiracy — that this was an 
illicit meeting. From that moment, he was clothed in 
the mantle of discretion. Betaking himself to a com- 
manding position, he sat down upon his haunches, and 
with vigilant eyes and pricked ears, kept watch and ward 
over his companions. 

" Well, it's time I was going," said Charlie, at length. 
" It's been a gala afternoon for me, but I must be back in 
London to-night. Good-bye, sister, dearest ; you will 
hear about me from Gracie often now. Adieu, my own," 
he continued, audaciously clasping Miss Holbourne in 
his arms, and snatching a tribute from her lips. Then, 
quickly releasing her, looking so pretty in her blushes 
and sweet confusion, that it was almost pitiable to think 
there should be none to see ^er, Charlie disappeared 
amidst the bushes. 



EGINALD HOLBOURNE, meanwhile, is saun- 
tering, for the second time in his life, through 
" love's young dream." He can no longer even 
impose upon himself about still retaining affec- 
tion for his fiancee. The scales have fallen from his eyes. 
He knows now that he loves Lettice, and that it is im- 
possible for him to wed Marion. But although he passes 
many golden hours in the presence of the object of his 
passion, do not think that he suffers from no reaction to 
such lotus-eating. 

Reginald Holbourne is a man of high but weak charac- 
ter. Such usually suffer much in their journey through 
life. They elect an exalted standard by which to shape 
their course. They set up for themselves a code of 
strictest honour, infringement of which occasions them 
agonies of self-abasement. These weak characters per- 
petually yield — yield only after a painful struggle — to 
temptation. They suffer from paroxysms of self-accusa- 
tion and self-upbraiding before their fall ; they are tor- 
tured with remorse, their sin at last accomplished. 
Reginald, in his own eyes, cannot break with Marion 
without dire stain occurring to his scutcheon. It must 
be borne in mind that he is not behind the scenes as we 
are ; that he still looks upon it that he won this girl's 
love as an heiress ; that when her loss of fortune was 

loo False Cards. 

made known to her, she chivalrously restored to him his 
troth, which he answered by a voluntary renewal of his 
vows ; and, lastly, though conscious that his own love is 
dead, he still believes that Marion loves him in a sober 

He is quite aware, too, what injustice he is being guilty 
of with regard to Lettice. Child as she is, she makes no 
attempt to disguise her love, which shines out of her 
eyes frank and innocent. She appeals to him now upon 
all occasions. Her sweet face is covered with smiles and 
tell-tale blushes when he praises her, clouded and 
troubled should his words be harsh. She is so proud 
and pleased when he takes her out for a walk, slips her 
little hand within his arm in such a nutter of delight, 
and prattles in his ear all the time, as birds sing in 
Spring-time, from mere exhilaration and ecstasy. As 
the season draws on Reginald encounters more acquaint- 
ances than he could wish. He becomes aware that the 
men thereof look with a half curious stare of admiration 
at Lettice ; that there is a slight twitch about the corners 
of their mouths, and that his companion calls forth com- 
ment, the gist of which he guesses pretty accurately. He 
grinds his teeth at such contretemps The ladies of his 
acquaintance, moreover, are wont to be more short- 
sighted than usual, when Lettice is upon his arm. 
Quietly and neatly dressed as she ever is, with all the 
sweet purity and modesty of her girlhood irradiating her 
face, yet it is palpable to those who know Reginald Hol- 
bourne that this fair companion of his is not of his own 
class. Those who know the world, and are well aware 
with what small amount of charity and upon what slight 
evidence it draws its conclusions, will see little to wonder 
at in all this. 

It was gall to Reginald. He loved this girl purely and 
passionately. He could but see that already men were 
regarding her as his mistress. He argued sophistically to 
himself that no word of love had ever as yet escaped his 
lips. He declined to picture to himself what his eyes, 
his manner, his voice, had told times without number. 
And yet it was with a thrill of exultation he felt that 
Lettice's heart was entirely his own. He wanted no con- 

Before the Storm. tot 

firmation of this, although he thought at times how 
delicious it would be to draw the avowal from her own 
glowing lips. There were times when his passion all but 
mastered him, and he had hard matter to restrain himself 
from clasping her in his arms, and letting loose the flood- 
gates of his love. How sweet would it be, " leaning 
cheek to cheek," to flatter forth such confession ! Then 
he foamed and fumed that men should dare regard his 
goddess in the light he but too surely recognised they 
did. He was furious at the idea that Lettice's fair fame 
should be smirched. Yet it did not occur to him to 
break up their existing relations. To seek other lodgings, 
to sever himself from the girl he professed to love, but on 
whom he knew he was casting such a stain by his im- 
prudence as woman can seldom live down. 

And she, poor child, saw nothing of all this- She 
hardly as yet recognised that she loved. She knew that 
his presence made sunshine — his absence shade ; that 
praise or kind words from him constituted happiness ; 
that his displeasure made her sad — ay, sadder than such 
chiding seemed due warranty for. She never pictured to 
herself, as yet, any change in their relations. It seemed 
quite natural to her that things should go on as they did 
at present ; that he should read to her, lend her books, 
and sometimes take her out for delicious walks. Little 
likely that a child such as she should dream that the 
world might view their proceedings with a jaundiced eye. 
Of late, Reginald had favoured country excursions. 
These were Elysium to Lettice. To scamper up Hamp- 
stead Hill with him — to go down to Hampton, and 
wander through Bushy Park, to tread the soft velvety 
turf, and see the grand horse-chestnuts in all their glory ; 
then come home tired and delighted, and muse upon her 
day's enjoyment. 

And so Lettice continued her dream, with eyes as yet 
blind to its consequences ; while Reginald, only too con- 
scious of what might come of it, argued sophistically 
with himself, upbraided himself, but made no effort to 
break through the web he was so assuredly weaving. 

As for old Mr. Cheslett, since his attack he had been 
but feeble, both in mind and body. He seemed to take 

102 False Carets. 

it quite as a matter of course that his granddaughter 
should go about under Reginald's escort, and vouchsafed 
no word of counsel to the motherless girl. He seemed to 
take but little interest in anything but the weather and 
his meals. If the day was fine, he sauntered up to the 
Regent's Park, and sat there in the sun. The Zoological 
Gardens were a source of much amusement to him — indeed, 
I think Reginald became a " Fellow " about this time, 
for the mere purpose of providing him with free admissions. 

Parsimony had almost developed into the passion of 
avarice with him of late, and one thing which caused 
him to view Reginald with much favour, was the num- 
berless presents he made them of country produce, such 
as fresh butter, eggs, chickens, etc. The young man 
often received a hamper from Aldrirgham with such 
freight, as a lift to his bachelor menage, the contents of 
which, in great measure, went now to the strengthening 
of the Cheslett commissariat. 

" Mr. Holbourne, you're too bad, and too good," said 
Lettice, laughing, as she let him in one afternoon, on his 
return from the City. "Too bad to rob yourself so dis- 
gracefully as you have, and too good to send us such a 
magnificent contribution to our larder as you did this 

" Was your grandfather pleased, Lettice ? " inquired 
Reginald, smiling. 

" Yes ! and I am pleased a little, and displeased a little, 
but shall be altogether pleased if you'll promise to come 
and help to eat your own chickens to-night. You will, 
won't you ? " she said, softly. 

" Yes, if you like it, and Mr. Cheslett won't object." 

" Ah ! that's good of you. I had vowed, if you would 
not, that no chicken should pass my lips to-night. I 
should have had to dine upon bread-and-butter. See 
what a quandary you have got me out of ! " 

"You're a foolish child, Lettice," replied Holbourne, 

" Not so, my lord — not so ! " cried the girl, merrily. 
" I have you and chickens to my dinner to-night. An 
you but bring your best humour with you, we will make 
a cheerful meal of it." 

Before tfie Storm, 103 

Lettice sometimes affected, in her mirth, the language 
of those old dramatists of whom she had heard so much 
from her grandfather. 

Very pretty did she look that evening doing the 
honours of her simple table, albeit she wore but a neat 
print dress ; but then it fitted her to perfection, and a 
bright blue ribbon at her throat, and another of the same 
hue gleaming amongst her luxurious dark tresses, served 
her for ornaments, 

"Wine, Lettice, we want more wine," said Mr. 
Cheslett, as the dinner came to a conclusion. "Most 
excellent chicken, Mr. Holbourne. I lender you thanks, 
sir, for the same. 

' ' ' Now am I 
In mine own conceit a monarch ; — at the least 
Arch-president of the boiled, the roast, the baked. 

If man, who has but the mere ordering of the feast, may 
say that, how much more warrant has he who has fed 
and grown fat thereon ! " 

Grandpapa Cheslett waxed garrulous under the in- 
fluence of the good cheer. He pushed the bottle about 
in a way that not only astonished Reginald, but made 
Lettice stare with amazement. He told various stories, 
and told them, too, with considerable spirit. He chuckled 
immensely over an anecdote of Lettice's childish days — 
of how, upon one occasion, he had found her most 
intently occupied upon sweeping out the sitting-room ; 
how he had volunteered to bring her a brush and dust- 
pan from town, and asked if she would not be pleased 
with them ; how Lettice thanked him gravely, and then 
added, " And, grandpapa, if you could only bring me a 
good lot of dirt, too, it would be such fun." 

Lettice laughed, and declared that this was a bit of 
invention upon Mr. Cheslett's part ; but the old gentle- 
man, with much merriment, asseverated that his story 
was true. Then Mr. Cheslett relapsed into an easy-chair, 
and, when coffee was brought in, requested Reginald to 
light his cigar. 

" I don't smoke myself, sir," he said, " but I don't 
mind it ; and as for the child there, she's not old enough 
ye< to know rightly what she likes and what she doesn't." 

104 False Cards. 

Ah ! Grandpapa Cheslett, you make a great mistake 
there. She may be young, but she has learnt not only 
to like, but to love. The old, old lesson is to be under- 
stood at sixteen very perfectly. Plants bloom early at 
times, and in the tropics maidens have " serious affairs " 
ere they enter tht ir teens. Even in our more northern 
climates parents and guardians are occasionally startled 
by the precocity of their charges in such matters. 
Lettice was a girl who had stood alone from an early 
age. Such naturally are driven to think for themselves. 
Children under these circumstances, develop rapidly. 
They occasionally awake to the simultaneous knowledge 
that they have a heart, and have lost it. Lettice is not 
as yet quite aware of this fact. She never attempts to 
analyse her feelings towards Reginald, but she is perfectly 
well satisfied to sit in the window with him, as she is 
doing to-night, carrying on a desultory conversation in a 
low voice, while her grandfather enjoys his after-dinner 
nap. There is so little said, apparently, in such talk. 
The topics may be so common-place, but who can des- 
cribe the glance, the tone, that invest these nothings 
with so much significance. No word of love may pass 
the lips. That conversation might be published to the 
world, and very vapid and uninteresting would the world 
deem it. Yet how sweet it was ! How much those com- 
mon-place observations conveyed to our ears ! Com- 
mon-place, forsooth ! Not when uttered in those low, 
tremulous tones, with those liquid eyes stealing a timid 
upward glance at our own. 

So they two sat looking out at the hot Summer night 
over the dusty street, their whispering conversation 
almost hushed, the silence broken only by the occasional 
rattle of a cab, the voice of some passer-by, or the gentle 
trumpeting of Grandpapa Cheslett's nose ; yet who would 
deem that they held no commune, that their hearts 
throbbed not fiercely, that their pulses beat not un- 
steadily ? Strong passions run ever silently. It is the 
babbling love that lacks strength. Those who shriek 
forth their hate or vengeance are little to be dreaded. 
The deep, silent stream it is that, when it bursts its banks, 
carries such havoc and desolation before it. It is the long 


Before the Storm. 10^ 

and sternly-repressed passion that is charged with such 
weal or such woe to the object of its love or its hatred. 

Reginald's lips tremble more than once with the wild 
speech that so nearly escapes them. The strong white 
teeth at times bite through the cigar, as he desperately 
gulps down the words that he can barely refrain from 
giving vent to. But no ; he has determined that he will 
not wrong this girl by filling her ears with his passion, 
while he is pledged to another ; so he smokes on in silent 
tempestuous manner, and solaces himself with the hypo- 
critical reflection that he is not making love to Lettice. 
There is much notable love-making done with little 
converse, and fluency of tongue has nipped many a 
promising flirtation. 

And Lettice is quite satisfied to sit there beside him 
and dream. It is enough for her to have him all to her- 
self this sultry evening, and fill up the silence with the 
imaginings of her girlish heart. She feels no anxiety 
that he should express himself more clearly — no pertur- 
bation that she is on the eve of a denouement. She is 
quite content with things as they are. She has not 
as yet learnt to look upon him as a lover; she has 
not yet admitted to herself that she loves. A word from 
him — an accident of circumstance — might cause the 
scales to fall from her eyes at any moment. But the 
word is not as yet spoken ; the circumstance has not as 
yet occurred. 

Suddenly some big plashes of rain fall on the pave- 
ment, and the low growling of the long-threatening storm 
meets the ear. 

" Time to close the window, little one ! " exclaims 
Reginald, " and for good people like you and me to go to 

"Ah, yes," she replies. " It has been a pleasant even- 
ing, but a storm finishes many such." 
" What do you mean ? " asked Reginald. 
"Nothing. I don't know — yes, I do— I mean that- 
some of life's sunniest days are succeeded by some of life's 
fiercest storms. Unfair, Mr. Holbourne," she continued, 
smiling, " to cross-examine me so closely ! " 

An ominous clap of thunder followed her remark, 


False Cards. 

which roused Mr. Cheslett from his slumbers, and seemed 
to Reginald like a weird commentary on her speech. He 
bade them good night somewhat abruptly, and as he 
ascended towards his own rooms, bethought himself 
musingly whether these sunny days he had been of late 
enjoying might not be but the presage of fell, tempes- 
tuous times, both to himself and Lettice. 



RADUALLY a rumour stole through Aldring- 
ham that Reginald Holbourne was engaged to 
be married — arising, as such vague stories will, 
from sources not precisely traceable ; growing 
in strength as it spread, and receiving much embellish- 
ment as it travelled from tongue to tongue ; confirmation 
waxing stronger day by day as the lively imaginations of 
the narrators of the fable filled in the details. By the 
end of the week it began to settle down, and Aldringham 
generally believed that Reginald was about to present 
his father with a daughter-in-law, wooed from the boards 
of a suburban theatre. To these good people such a 
marriage was deemed no fit subject of gratulation. They 
pitied Mr. Holbourne from their hearts, and considerately 
refrained from felicitating him on his son's engagement. 
Of course it was quite impossible that Reginald could 
bring such a light-o'-love into the bosom of his own 
family. Miss Langworthy and her sister were not likely 
to tolerate such dishonour as the receiving an actress to 
their hearth ; and the banker the last man in the world 
to bear such desecration of his home. Aldringham had 
its own puritanical views of the sisters of the buskin, and 
held them in little esteem ; an opinion based, like many 
other strong prejudices in this world, upon sheer theory 
ir.d complete ignorance of the class it so emphatically 

Io8 False Cards. 

condemned. It was therefore but natural, under the 
circumstances, that Mr. Holbourne and his family were 
the last people to hear that of which all Aldringham was 
just now talking. 

Reginald's engagement to his cousin was a thing known 
only to Grace, and had never of late been even suspected 
by the townspeople. True, there had been a time when 
their names had been for a little coupled by the gossips 
of the place, but such rumour had long since died away, 
and therefore operated as no check upon the later 

After a little, this story reached the ears of Sir John 
Collingham. The Baronet was far too shrewd a man to 
swallow it as a fact, although chapter and verse were 
given him by the narrator in a most circumstantial 
manner. But he did know somewhat of this world and 
its ways — he thought with so much smoke there was 
probably some small amount of fire. <( Young men 
would be young men," he muttered ; and perchance his 
thoughts travelled back a little to that discarded son of 
his as he made this reflection. He deemed it highly 
probable that Reginald might be entangled with some 
connection of the kind, and meditated much whether it 
would not be friendly to give the banker a hint. " He's 
a pompous fool," he mused, "but I have seen him 
tolerably shrewd at times, when one has succeeded in 
getting through the crust of his ineffable vanity." 

And so Sir John one morning informed Mr. Holbourne 
of what all the town was saying, much to that gentle- 
man's astonishment ; stating at the same time that, 
though he did not personally believe in the rumour, it 
would be as well perhaps to contradict it, on Reginald's 

The banker showed common sense on the occasion — he 
wrote to his son at once, told him what he had heard, 
and demanded either license to deny it, or admission of its 
truth. Reginald's answer came by return of post, and 
contained a most contemptuous though somewhat curt 
negation of the report. Mr. Holbourne therefore openly 
alluded to the rumour, clinching such allusion with the 
most unqualified contradiction of its truth. 

Robert Collingham s Uonrtship. iog 

As might be supposed, both Grace and her cousin now 
became cognizant of the story, and of Reginald's denial 
of it. Grace turned up her pretty lip, and was very 
indignant with the scandal-mongering town in which she 
lived. Marion said little ; she laughed at the whole 
affair to Grace and Mr. Holbourne, but inwardly Miss 
Langworthy had her own opinion, and was by no means 
convinced of her lover's innocence. She kept her 
thoughts locked in her own bosom, and in her next 
letter to Reginald alluded jestingly and briefly to the 
subject ; but she had made up her mind to know rather 
more about it, as soon as opportunity offered. 

A gossiping country town, however, is not quite so 
easily choked off its quarry. Aldringham has not quite 
done with Reginald Holbourne as yet. Sinister whispers 
go about now that it is even worse than first reported. 
Mr. Reginald may deny his marriage ; it would be more 
respectable if he had made his associate an honest woman, 
disgraceful as such marriage might be ; but there can be 
no doubt that a lady connected with the theatrical pro- 
fession resides with him, and is continually to be seen 
about with him. Some inkling of this second rumour, 
in vague, unconnected shape, reaches Marion's ears, now 
rather on the qui vive for such gossip. That worldly- 
minded young lady deems this perhaps a more correct 
version of the affair ; still she says nothing, and nurses 
her wrath in silence, but is more resolute than ever to 
get to the bottom of this business. 

Just at present, too, Miss Langworthy is engaged in a 
scheme that she considers of more importance than that 
of convicting her lover in his transgressions. It may be, 
should her present project prove successful, that Reginald's 
offendings shall require no further consideration on her 
part. Besides, they are going to town in about three 
weeks, and it will be time enough then to investigate 
these stories. Since the bazaar Robert Collingham has 
been a most pertinacious visitor at the banker's; he 
drops in continually to lunch, to afternoon tea, and at 
various odd times. As before stated, he is not a man of 
much conversation on general topics._ It is not now the 
shooting season, and consequently he is debarred in great 


no False Cards. 

measure from riding one of his hobbies. Ladies as a 
are not much given to talk farming, so that his other 
hobby-horse fails to do him much service in Mr. 
Holbourne's drawing-room. Both girls laugh at him, 
and deem him rather a bore ; yet both are wondrous civil 
to him — Grace for reasons which we can easily divine, 
Marion from ulterior motives of her own. Miss 
Langworthy has made up her mind that Robert 
Collingham would make a very eligible husband. 

Mr. Collingham, conscious of his deficiencies in the 
conversational way, has hit upon a happy though novel 
expedient — he takes in Punch. On Wednesday, after 
inquiring whether the ladies have seen Punch, which 
now, understanding his ways, they always good-naturedly 
deny, he proceeds to entertain them with the leading 
facetiae of that journal ; on Thursday he runs through 
the odd corners for their delectation ; on Friday he brings 
them Punch; and on Saturday he looks in 1 to laugh over 
the jokes in concert with them,,; if he calls ©n the Monday 
or Tuesday, he speculates a good deal as to whether 
Punch will be good that week. Grace and Marion in- 
variably now dub him "Punch" in their conversation 
with each other. " 

An impartial observer would have confessed himself 
puzzled as to which of the ladies it was that constituted 
Robert Collingham's attraction. His attentions were 
very evenly bestowed. If he talked more to Marion, of 
a surety his eyes wandered more often to Grace. Miss 
Holbourne could converse pleasantly enough with those 
who contributed their own fair quota to such intercourse, 
but she did not possess her cousin's talent of providing 
conversation for two. Marion possessed this rare gift to 
a considerable degree. It was not that she did so very 
much more than her own share of the talking, but the 
way she threw the ball back to her companion was 
marvellously clever. The hardiesse with which she 
would interpolate her conversation with " As you were 
saying the other day," or "I know you hold a different 
opinion ; you look upon it from such a view," was scarce 
credible. That these opposing views or sayings were of 
her own improvising, I need scarcely observe ; but so 

Robert CoWughairfs Courtship. in 

cleverly was it done, that the distressed conversationalist 
suddenly found himself furnished with argument or re- 
joinder. And Marion never sought to interfere, as long 
as her companion's talk showed a symptom of vitality ; 
but when it flickered in the socket, then she stepped in 
once more to the rescue. It was not much to be wondered 
at, under these circumstances, that it was to Miss Lang- 
worthy that Robert Collingham principally addressed 

He was right ! It would be well for society if there 
were a few more Miss Langworthys diffused through our 
social sj'stem — only think, 

" Ve diners out from whom we guard our spoons," 

what a real blessing to be bidden to take such a lady in 
to dinner ! I'll admit myself having a very imperfect 
sense of rectitude, and having many times wished that 
my yoke partner on such occasion had been more amusing, 
and rather less orthodox. I don't hold that your anecdote 
need stand cross-examination. Give me imagination, 
and ajico for veracity at the dinner-table. Some notable 
liars that I have met in my day, have proved most excel- 
lent company over a bottle of claret. 

Mr. Collingham continued, however, to call and talk 
Punch with wonderful pertinacity ; and Miss Langworthy 
showed much ability and patience in making the best of 
him under such circumstances. 

" Ah," she said, laughingly, one afternoon, " you think, 
because we are a little diffident about showing our know- 
ledge, that we women understand nothing about agri- 
culture. Perhaps we don't ; but when you tell me, as 
you did the other day, that these small holdings are the 
curse of the unhappy tenants thereof, I must venture to 
disagree with you." 

Now this was pure improvisation upon Miss Lang- 
worthy's part. Robert Collingham, to do him justice, 
had studiously excluded his views on the land question 
from his conversation ; but there was really no more to 
be said about Puncl on that occasion, and Marion felt it 
incumbent upon ha to give him a fresh opening. She 
knew perfectly well on what subjects his tongue was oiled 

112 False Cards. 

The bait took. Robert Collingham flew at it like a pike 
at a frog in March, and waxed eloquent upon the misery 
twenty-acre farms entailed upon the proprietors. The 
young lady picked his brains as he spoke, and interlocuted 
pungent remarks on his observations, derived entirely 
from such knowledge as she acquired as he went on. 
Grace listened much amused at her cousin's shifty 
manceuvring, especially at the audacious way in which 
Marion occasionally quoted him against himself. Even 
Robert Collingham, at last, denied some of the statements 
Miss Langworthy put in his mouth, upon which that 
young lady threw up her hands in the prettiest manner, 
and proclaimed herself the veriest fool to have tried to 
argue on such a topic with a man who understood it in 
all its branches. ~~" 

" Beaten, Mr. Collingham — beaten, I admit. You are 
too clever for me. You have thoroughly studied the sub- 
ject, and I, woman-like, have dabbled in it, and formed 
wild judgment thereon ; as Sir Andrews says, ' An I had 
known you were so cunning of fence, I had never have 
fought you.' But I stick to my prerogative — ' Con- 
vinced against my will, I'm of the same opinion still.' " 

As Robert Collingham walked home that evening, he 
was rather perplexed himself about which of the girls it 
really was that he so constantly called at the banker's 
house to see. He knew perfectly well that his original 
attraction had been Grace, but there was no denying 
that her cousin was fair likewise, and gifted with a silvery 
tongue and rare intelligence. He was also indistinctly 
conscious of not progressing quite so satisfactorily with 
Miss Holbourne as he did with Miss Langworthy. Still, 
marrying the wealthy banker's only daughter was one 
thing, and marrying his next door to penniless niece 
another. If he could but have transposed them, how 
simple it would then be ! In the meantime, Mr. Collingham 
felt that he had a somewhat abstruse problem to solve. 
A man of slow, lethargic temperament, and not likely to 
compromise himself lightly — a man who would contem- 
plate matrimony in a somewhat commercial spirit, and 
look for an accession of money or connection in any alli- 
ance he might form, yet of sufficient calibre to compre- 

Robert Collin gham 's Courtship. 113 

hend that, situated as he was, it was possible that a clever 
woman like his wife might more than compensate for 
such deficiencies fcy her tact and talent. If he was not 
qualified to shine much socially, yet Robert Collingham 
had strong common-sense. He had seen several of his 
compeers who had owed a considerable amount of their 
rise up life's ladder to the assistance of their helpmates, 
albeit they had brought their lords no better dowry than 
a woman's shrewd wit and a woman's strong heart. 

Still Robert Collingham was not at all the man to 
depart from his original intention lightly. He had com- 
menced his visits at the banker's with the distinctly laid- 
down object of wooing Grace for his wife. He had been 
much struck with her at the ball, he had thought it over 
in a most business-like manner ; he argued very naturally 
that he would be a son-in-law whom Mr. Holbourne must 
thoroughly approve — that, at all events, in course of 
time, Grace must inherit a considerable sum of money. 
She was very handsome, a favourite of his father's — his 
god-daughter, in fact. In short, he deemed her a most 
eligible damsel at whom to throw his handkerchief, and 
this son of a provincial Caliph fell momentarily into the 
error of thinking he had but to woo to win. He had 
some justification for such mistake ; he knew that there 
were plenty of maidens, well dowered as Miss Holbourne, 
who would gladly have accepted the heir of a tolerably 
well-to-do baronetcy, should he but ask them. To do 
him justice, he soon saw that Grace was not one of that 
stamp — that she was not to be won so lightly ; but, in 
very sooth, at this present moment Robert Collingham 
would have been much puzzled to decide as to which of 
these girls it was he would fain marry. Marion's tactics 
of that afternoon had increased his admiration and regard 
for her considerably. 

Grace had been over to Churton two or three times 
since the day of the walk to " The Hazels," and upon 
one occasion by herself. Sylla could talk of nothing else 
but her meeting with Charlie. She mourned so that she 
had not extracted from him what had been the cause of 
his rupture with Sir John. 

" It was stupid, foolish of me, Gracie. If I did but 

114 False Cards. 

know the truth of that story, I might put things right 
again, I think. But I was so wild with delight at meeting 
him, I quite forgot to ask about it." 

" It would have been no use if you had, Sylla," replied 
Miss Holbourne. " That subject is a forbidden one. 
Charlie won't allow me to allude to it even, though he 
will tell me anything else about himself." 

" Ah ! but it would have been different with me," 
murmured Miss Collingham, softly. 

Grace's colour heightened as she replied, 

" Sylla, if I thought Charlie could share a trouble with 
you, such as I know this is to him, and could refuse to 
let me also bear my share of his sorrow, although I stand 
his plighted wife now, I would never go to the altar with 
him. But I don't think so ; I trust him thoroughly, and 
know I shall be told all in due season." 

A sharp pang shot through Miss Collingham's heart. 
She was 'loth to recognize that she was no longer to 
stand first in the affection of that brother whom she so 
worshipped. She saw her speech had wounded Grace's 
jealous love. Small wonder. What girl passionately in 
love could have borne the intimation that her lover 
might confide to his sister what he declined to entrust to 
her ? 

A few seconds, and then Sylla stole her arm around 
her companion's waist, and almost whispered into her 

" Forgive me, Gracie. i have been first to him so long 
that I forgot. Let us be true sisters, and pardon my 
foolish speech. You are right, dearest, but you must 
still leave me a place in his heart all the same. You 
won't come between him and his blind sister, will 
you ? " 

She faltered forth the last words almost plaintively, 
and ere they were well spoken, she was enfolded in 
Grade's arms, as she exclaimed, 

" Sylla, don't say such things. I could bite my tongue 
out now for what I have said. True sisters, ay, true 
sisters ever ! I was a wretch, even for a moment to have 
felt jealous of his love for you ! " 

It may be deemed that Charlie Collingham might 

Robert Colliiiglianis Courfsl/ip 

1 1 : 

have managed to see his sister during these four years 
somewhat sooner, but two or three things must be borne 
in mind. Firstly, that he was rigorously forbidden his 
father's house ; secondly, Sylla's affliction ; and, thirdly, 
that his acquaintance with Grace had only been renewed 
some few months back, and had but of late waxed into 
what it had now become, and so given him .title to lay 
claim to her xssistance in the matter. 



CENE, that small workshop at Brompton, in 
which those two shining lights of literature, 
Collingham and Donaldson, manufacture much 
manuscript for the delectation of the public. 
Standing on the hearthrug, Mr. Donaldson, a silver 
goblet in his right hand, moulded in the likeness of a 
skull, and inscribed round the rim with the appropriate 
inscription of " Here's a health to them that's awa'," is 
holding conference with Miss Meggott. 

" So you don't like it, Polly, eh ? That's what comes 
of letting her take her own character for a week, Charlie. 
I told you it would never do. When you let 'em select 
their own parts they always get bumptious." 

" I know what I like, and I know what I don't like," 
replied Miss Meggott, tersely, " and that's more than a 
good many people do. And I say what I think, with no 
humbug about it, and that's more than most people do. 
Fiddlesticks," replied that young lady, snapping her 
fingers. "You know you are not so good as. usual this 
time, as well as I do. The reviews may butter you 
up, but if you want Polly Meggott's opinion, you've got 
it ! " 

" Yes," retorted Jim laughing, " there was not much 
doubt about my getting that, whether T wanted it 01 

At tl'c Peoples Cosmorama. 1 1 7 

"It's all very fine, young people," replied Polly, 
demurely. " It's my duty to look after you and see 
what you're doing. Bless me, I'm bound to see you're 
grinding enough corn to pay the rent ! You're a precious 
idle couple, and it's quite as well you've somebody to 
keep you up to the mark." 

" Don't be scurrilous, Polly ; here's your health," and 
Donaldson drained the goblet and placed it on the table. 
" Now what's the matter with the comedy ? " 

" Well, I'll tell you. It drags in the last act. All the 
interest is out of it after the second. Bless you ! I didn't 
want to wait to see what came of them all, because I 
knew. Now I hate to know how it's all going to finish 
till within ten minutes of the curtain. Them's first 
principles of the drama, and you'd better stick to 'em in 
future. Now don't be down in your luck," continued 
Miss Meggott; "I'll go to-morrow with mother's um- 
brella and see what I can do for it. What's it to be — 
dinner at home, and give trouble ; or dine out, and spend 
money ? " 

" We'll dine at home, and get half-a-dozen evil spirits 
to come and keep us company. Sing choruses till sunrise, 
and otherwise make the welkin ring again ! " retorted 
Donaldson, laughing. 

"All right, I'm used to being put upon, and the police 
station is handy when you get past bearing," replied 
Miss Meggott. "What's it to be ? Are they to be fed 
upon bread and cheese, or are we to run into the 
extravagance of chops ? You men are always thinking 
of supporting the system, as you call it, instead of enlarg- 
ing your minds." 

" With your talent for the amenities of conversation, 
Polly, we can't be sufficiently thankful that you were not 
born dumb." 

" Yes, it would have been sad that. What a lot of 
wholesome truths you would have escaped hearing, Mr. 
Donaldson ! " 

" Never mind, Polly, as you're losing your temper 
we'll go out to dinner. I know you'd turn out a perfect 
fiend if we did not." 

"It would be a wonder if I didn't lose something, 

n8 False Cards. 

considering the company I have got into," retorted Miss 
Meggott laughing. " And as to how I might turn out, 
you needn't taunt me with my weakness, Mr. Donaldson ; 
I know I pick up the ways of those I associate with, 
worse luck ! " 

Miss Meggott was an adept at chaff, and it was by 
no means easy to obtain the best of her in such light 

" I give in, Polly," said Donaldson. " Your tongue is 
all too glib for me this morning." 

" Sorry I can't return the compliment," retorted Miss 
Meggott. " But I suppose that means we are to stop 
joking. I notice you always do when I have the best 
of it." 

" And is not that always the case, when I am rash 
enough to match myself against that quick wit of 
yours ? " 

" Come, no more chaff. You get the best of me quite 
as often as is good far you. No dinner at home to-night ? " 
said Miss Meggott interrogatively. 

" No, Polly, we are full of high intent and virtuous 
resolution. We are going to study from life a bit." 

" Ah, I know ! Don't forget your latch-key. Recollect 
you may break the street door in, but I'm not to be 
knocked up. If you haven't a key there's nothing for 
you but burglary, or to sit on the steps till the milk 
comes ! " With which advice Miss Meggott departed. 

" Well, Charlie, was the Aldringham trip satisfactory ? 
I am quite ready to do postman again for you in that 
quarter, whenever you please, although I can't say, as 
far as I was concerned, that the lady was 

' Prodigal of all dear grace, 
As nature was in making graces dear, 
When she did starve the general world beside, 
And prodigally gave them all to her.' 

Your sweetheart's very handsome, Charlie, but she didn't 
seem to care about paying sixpence for your letter." 

" Yes, she told me of your avarice, and how you 
wrung that amount from her, and bade me say that you 
owed it to charity of some sort." 

" Now, Heaven forefend that I should ever play Mercury 

At the People s Cosmoriima. 1 19 

again ! " retorted Donaldson. " Could sweeter charity 
ever be exercised than the ministering to two love- 
stricken mortals ? And yet I'm accused of lack of that 
virtue ! By-the-way, I made a mistake in the first 
instance, and tried hard to dispose of your missive to 
another lady — a nice-looking girl, too." 

" Yes, that was her cousin. I don't know why, for I 
have barely ever spoken to her, but I mistrust her proving 
a friend to me. I've adverse sympathies, if you under- 
stand what that means," replied Collingham, laughing. 

" Charlie, my boy, don't begin improvising domestic 
melodrama. You're encroaching on my prerogative. 
When your love affair goes awry, it will be my business 
to dramatise it, and paint the opposers of your happiness 
in inkiest hues. In the meantime, come along." 

"Where are we bound for?" inquired Charlie; "what 
shall we do ? Dinner first, I presume ?" 

" Yes. You're good for a stretch, are you not ? Let's 
walk into town, and get something to eat at the ' Friars.' 
I want to see Jemmy O'Brian there, if I can catch him. 
He was telling me the other day that he had found a 
place down Islington way, that was worth our looking in 
at. It'll make an agony column for The Misanthrope, if 
we don't get more out of it. At present I only recollect 
it's a little past the Harmonic." 

" Good," replied Charlie, laughing. " A very pretty 
programme ; mutton chops and unlimited rowdyism to 
wind up with." 

" All in the way of business," replied Donaldson. " I 
never tire of wandering about the big City by gas-light. 
To me it's a study of perpetually accumulating interest. 
Amongst the thousands of people who come to London, 
how very few know London ! I don't mean merely their 
way about it, but the street life and queer haunts of the 

" No," said Charlie, sententiously. " People would 
think we mocked them if we told them that one of the 
finest sights in town was to stand at the top of North 
Audley Street, and gaze down Oxford Street at four a.m. 
on a Summer morning, and yet it is but a fortnight ago 
we agreed it was so." 

120 False Cards. 

" Yes, here we are at the Green. I don't suppose many 
West-enders ever set foot on its most figurative turf. The 
paving-stone has superseded the grass full many a year, 
but I can fancy Clerkenwell Green looked upon as genuine 
sward by many a Londoner. We haven't passed Jeru- 
salem Court, have we." 

" No, next turning to the right." 

Two or three more seconds, and they turned sharp 
down a narrow alley, from whence they emerged upon a 
somewhat irregular quadrangle. Facing them stood the 
grand old gateway of the Priory of the Knights of St. 
John — sole vestige remaining of the magnificent establish- 
ment that they once held here. This gateway is now a 
tavern, and it was in this hostelrie that the somewhat 
Zingari association known as The Friars was at present 
located. It was not a club, in the present sense of the 
term. House of its own had it none. Bare-backed 
friars, bare-footed friars, the reverend community were 
fond of designating themselves ; bare-faced friars, bare- 
witted friars, they were dubbed by a similar glib-tongued 
rival institution. Their system was to engage some three 
or four rooms at an old-fashioned tavern, and there they 
remained till disagreement with their landlord, desire of 
change, or some other whim, sent them once more in 
search of quarters. Hotels were contrary to the rule of 
the order, which ordained that they should "seek shelter 
and sustenance only in good old-fashioned hostelries, and 
not in those new-fangled houses of entertainment which 
men do call hotels." 

For the present, and for some two years past, the 
" Gate Tavern " had been their abiding place. Passing 
through the bar, with a good-humoured nod of recogni- 
tion to the young lady therein presiding, the two young 
men made their way up a narrow and somewhat compli- 
cated staircase, and entered a barely-furnished room — a 
commonplace chamber enough, remarkable for only two 
things — on one side of the room ran a glazed book-case, 
tolerably well-filled, which, on investigation, was found 
to contain nothing but the numbers of the Gentleman 's 
Magazine, dating from its commencement ; while on a 
raised dais at the upper end of the apartment stood a 

At the People 's Cosmo rrtma. 121 

straight, high-backed, most uncomfortable-looking wooden 
arm-chair — a seat of much reverence all the same, known 
and inscribed as Dr. Johnson's chair. From the depths 
of that upright piece of furniture, tradition said the great 
lexicographer had penned most of " The Rambler ; " and as 
you gazed at that ponderous bit of upholstery of by-gone 
days, it would seem partially to account for those sonorous 
periods. One could scarcely imagine light, frothy articles 
written by the tenant of that stiff old chair. Famous the 
room in literary history as the editorial office of Cave, the 
publisher of the Gentleman 's Magazine, and scene of that 
dinner with Harte, in which the author of the " Life of 
Savage," from his poverty of raiment, had his dinner 
sent to him behind the screen. Sad episode to look back 
upon in the life of so great a man ; and yet the lives of 
many of our greatest lights are but too prolific of such 
trials. Massinger died a pauper; -''rare Ben Jonson" was 
hard put to it to scrape bread and cheese together at 
times ; while Carey, the author of our National Anthem, 
committed suicide with three halfpence in his pocket. 

But a truce to such gloomy reflections — times are 
better with the literary profession in these days. 

Three or four friars lounge about the fireplace, attired 
in the costume of the day, with no savour of conven- 
tual garments about them. They are engaged princi- 
pally in the consumption of tobacco. They hail the 
advent of Collingham and Jim Donaldson with much 
geniality, and in answer to the latter's inquiry about 
Jimmy O'Brian, inform him that the sub-prior is in the 
next room, manufacturing a grill, of extraordinary biting 
character, for his own delectation. Charlie and Donald- 
son blunder down half a dozen steps, stumble up half a 
dozen more, and enter the refectory — a fine old room, 
panelled with oak, dark as night from age ; the bust of 
Shakespeare at one end, faced by the bust of Johnson at 
the other. Historic spot this also, for it was herein that 
Garrick, as a stripling, first played in London before Cave 
and his 'prentice boys, they little thinking that he who 
fretted his hour for their amusement was destined to prove 
the Roscius of his nation. 

" All hail, my brethren, all hail ! " exclaimed a stout, 

122 False Cards. 

florid, bead-eyed little man, who, with some fragments of 
chicken before him, and surrounded with cruets and 
sauces, seemed engaged in some unholy incantation. 
" Charlie, my chick, how goes on the mourning-coach in 
which you so persistently bewail the times Ave live in ? 
You're firing away your ammunition a trifle too fast, my 
boy. You'll have us all under the red flag by Christmas 
at latest ; and as you know we shall all be nothing of the 
sort, what do you mean to do next ? You can't give out 
the revolution has commenced, you know, and call the 
nation to arms without something to go upon." 

" Never you mind," retorted Collingham. " The 
Misanthrope is never likely to lack matter to wail over. 
We shall see a foreign war, or something of that sort, 
' looming in the future ' by that time. At all events, 
sanitary reform is always a good standing dish to fall 
back upon." 

" Reckon you're smart, sir ; guess you've collared the 
idea. You'll do to journalize in New York in another 
year or two, you will," exclaimed a shrewd, sallow-faced 
man, with a humorous twinkle in his eye. " That's just 
it ; You must either harrow the public's feelings, or soap 
'em — either find a frightful flaw in the social fabric, or 
tell 'em it's about as near perfection just now as ever 
they'll get it." 

"Shut, up, Slymme!" exclaimed the grill-compounder. 
" What do you know about journalising ? " 

" Think I'm talking tall — eh, O'Brian ? " responded 
the American. " Bless you, I've run ' a daily ' in my 
time. There's not a darned trade I didn't have a shy at 
before I settled down into the show business. How air 
you, Mr. Donaldson ? You look peart and chipper. 
G'wine to feed ? I've just been packing a chop myself. 
Tell me your last piece has fetched the public some." 

" Not done amiss," replied the dramatist. " I say, 
Jemmy, where's this new entertainment you were telling 
me about the other night ? Collingham and I mean 
investigating it as soon as we've had something to eat." 

" It's no distance from here," replied O'Brian, desisting 
from his labours, with the pepper-castor poised in his 
hand. " Sorry I can't come with you myself this evening, 

At the Profile s Cosmnrama. T23 

but I'm cringed. It's just past the Harmonic ; bear to 
your left when you come to the fork of the High Street, 
and you'll soon see the People's Cosmorama in full 

" Guess I'll jine in," remarked Mr. Slymme, "if you've 
no objection. Shows air my business — of all kinds — ■ 
from two-headed nightingales to patent theatres. If I 
fancy the speculation, maybe I'll buy it. 

" Well," said O'Brien, " you are all three qualified to 
run alone and know town ; but I shouldn't take a watch 
or much money to speak of. Keep the rules of the order 
in mind, my sons, and if the ungodly should turn out 
your pockets to-night, see they find little in them besides 
the traditional cockleshell." 

" Ora pro nobis, O frater," laughed Collingham. " The 
brethren of the order would hardly pay for looting, even 
in their Sunday clothes. No professional would waste 
time in turning out a journalist's pockets. Besides, I 
take it, like most of my guild, my face is pretty well 
known about town by this." 

"Yes, Charlie, that may be; but you're going to 
witness to-night a revolutionary diorama, commented on 
by a political incendiary — with an audience one half of 
whom are roughs, the others probably decent artizans 
out of work, either from a strike or bad luck. The 
rowdy element are very likely to go in for hustling and 

" Reckon, O'Brien, if it comes to a free fight, we can 
straighten out and look ugly as well as our neighbours. 
I don't rile easy, but I rile cussed strong when I du ! " 

" Now, then, Charlie," exclaimed Donaldson, " the 
sooner we're off the better. If you've finished your food, 
let's make a start." 

"All right," said Collingham, as he hastily gulped 
down the residue of his sherry. 

" Good night, and luck attend you," laughed O'Brien. 
" If I don't hear of some of you in three days — the 
mysterious Pollaky and self will be in communication. 
Consider me 

' The sweet little cherub that sits up aloft, 
To keep watch o'er the life of poor Jack,' 

124 False Cards. 

for which consult Dibden, ' and when found, make a note 
on.' " 

The trio made their way up St. John Street, and 
pushed on till they found themselves abreast of the 

" Reckon we'll look in here for five minutes," observed 
Mr. Slymme. " Knott, who owns the concern, is a friend 
of mine. Smart man Knott, with gumption and go 
about him. Found this place pretty near a dead horse 
business, and there ain't a prettier saloon in all London 
than he's made of it." 

Passing through the bar, they entered a spacious, 
gaudily-decorated music-hall, got up with stalls, private 
boxes, and gallery — sumptuous fittings, which, judging 
from the closely-packed audience had proved a by no 
means unremunerative outlay. On the stage a some- 
what curtailed representation of one of Offenbach's pieces 
was in course of representation, and the enthusiastic 
plaudits that greeted the performance showed clearly that 
the English lower- classes have much appreciation of good 
music, when placed within their reach. 

They had not been long seated before they were de- 
scribed by the lessee, who speedily came forward to greet 
Mr. Slymme. Mr. Knott wore the lowest of turn-down 
collars, the narrowest of neck-handkerchiefs, and the big- 
gest of diamond rings. These extreme points in his 
costume once got over, there was nothing very striking 
about Mr. Knott, beyond his vivacity of manner. He 
was one of those men whom it is impossible to reduce 
to despondency. If the Harmonic had blown up com- 
mercially the next day, Mr. Knott would have started in 
some other speculation long before the debris of his last 
venture had been cleared away. It was perhaps this 
somewhat American point in his character that had so 
won Mr. Slymme's admiration. 

When the lessee of the Harmonic heard of their pro- 
jected visit to the People's Cosmorama he laughed. 

" Well, gentlemen," he said, " you don't know when 
to let well alone. If you stay here you will be fairly 
amused, and I can promise you a tidy supper and a good 
cigar when the curtain's down. You're going amongst 

At the PntHcs Cosmofamd, 1 25 

a set of roughs, to see something that in all probability 
won't amuse you a bit. Best keep your places here, 
believe me." 

" Guess you're three parts right, old man," replied 
Slymme ; " but, you see, we've a thirst for novelty, we 
have. Your show ain't bad, and that's a fact ; but then 
there's heaps of shows like yours on hand in this metro- 

" Very good of you, Mr. Knott, to ask us," chimed in 
Collingham; "but our friend Slymme here has just hit 
it. We don't much expect to be amused, but we fancy 
we shall see an entertainment very different from any we 
have ever witnessed — that's the attraction." 

" That's so," chimed in the American. " We go in 
for doing all creation, and the People's Cosmorama air 
next on the list. Night, old oss." 

" Wish you well through it," laughed Mr. Knott. 
" Allow me to phophesy that, next time you are this 
way, you'll patronize the Harmonic, and not the Cosmo- 

" Very likely," laughed Donaldson, " and shall most 
likely wish we had stuck to it to-night." And nodding 
gaily to the lessee, he followed his friends. 

Now the advent of the trio had awakened the atten- 
tion of an indolent lounger at the other end of the stalls. 
He eyed them keenly during the conversation with Knott, 
and upon seeing them take their departure, caught up 
his hat and followed their example. He lounged listlessly 
through the bar and lobby after them, never approaching 
very near them, never apparently taking any notice of 
them ; but, for all that, never for one instant losing 
sight of them. In the street it was the same ; he saun- 
tered leisurely along some fifteen yards or so behind them. 

At last Donaldson exclaimed, "Here we are ! " as, up 

turning a few yards to the left of the Liverpool Road, 
he caught sight of a gaudy fanlight, bearing the inscrip- 
tion of " The People's Cosmorama." The entrance is 
not imposing — the box-office still less so. 

" What's to pay? — any difference in the seats?" in- 
quired Donaldson, from the precocious youth installed 


126 False Cards. 

"It's tuppence all over, and you sits where you can," 
was the laconic rejoinder. 

" Simple — very," said Jim, as he paid for their tickets, 
and passed on into a large, dimly-lighted room. 

The walls were bare and whitewashed, destitute of any 
attempt at decoration, unless the few sconces with their 
guttering candles might be deemed such. These too 
appeared only at the lower end of the room, at which 
you entered. The upper part was enshrouded in dark- 
ness, with the exception of" the dim, weird light which 
lit up the panoramic views upon the stage. These fol- 
lowing in historical sequence, and commencing with the 
destruction of the Bastille, were all illustrative of the 
upheavals of the mob ; while from out of the darkness 
to the left of the stage came the wild, nervous voice of 
the lecturer, explanatory of the rude pictures set before 
the audience. In fierce, harsh, denunciatory language 
did he point out the endless struggles of the working- 
men to obtain their rights ; dwelt in tones of exultation 
upon how often they had nearly succeeded, then died 
away into a very diapason of mournfulness as he recorded 
their successive failures. He quoted the Gordon Riots, 
the illustrating picture evidently composed from Barnaby 
Rudge, as the last stand of the freemen of England. 
The Paris coup-d 'etat of '48, representing, as he said, the 
hard-working artizans shot down by the ruthless soldiery 
of a tyrannical despot, formed another view. The final 
scene pictured the advance of the Versaillists over the 
barricades of the Commune, " the strangling of the new- 
born Republic in its cradle," continued the orator, " and 
the setting up of the veriest mockery that was ever 
designated a government. Working men," he went on, 
" you have hands, you have heads, but ye lack hearts. 
The days of serfdom are past, and ye continue slaves. 
Co-operation is what we require, throughout the length 
and breadth of Europe. Your assembly squabbles over 
re-distribution of seats ; we want re-distribution of pro- 
perty. They throw to you the sop of the ballot — tell 
them that you will have no large landed proprietors ; 
that their deer forests cry out against them ; that 
they shall no longer batten on their acres, while the 

At the Pcofi/e s Cosmoiditw. 127 

proletarians starve ; that the people have been down- 
trodden long enough, and that your right in the soil of 
your birth must be established by bloodshed if no milder 
argument holds sway. What says Proudhon, the philo- 
sopher of our class ? ' Property is theft.' And I tell 
you it is your own hands must right your wrongs. I 
have spoken. Send round the plate, Tom," said the 
orator, sotto voce, as he resumed his seat, and the curtain 
fell upon the storming of the barricades of the Com- 
mune. " I've pitched it in very strong, and they ought 
to come down for the International pretty handsome to- 

" Neat," said Charlie. " Of course a new division of 
the family silver must be highly beneficial to those 
who've got no plate." 

" I'm a republican, I am," said Mr. Slymme — " I reckon 
it rather tops any form of government invented yet. 
When it's beat, it'll be by something brought out our 
side the water, and we shall patent it, of course. But if 
that cuss broached his ideas about going halves in other 
people's dollars in New York, he'd be either laughed out 
of the city, or lynched. It would depend, you see, a good 
deal upon how our folks took it." 

Several more tin sconces were now illuminated, and the 
lights upon the stage also turned up ; and then a young 
lady, far more profuse in paint than petticoat, explained 
in shrill tones, to the accompaniment of a jangling piano, 
that her " love was a saileur boy, only nineteen years old ! " 

Collingham, meanwhile, was studying the room and its 
inhabitants, which the hitherto imperfect light had 
afforded no opportunity of doing. He saw that in front 
there were several rows of benches closely filled by grimy, 
serious-looking men, evidently of the working-class. 
Many of them dropped half-pence into the plate that was 
now handed round, for the benefit of the distressed 
brethren in Paris, according to the placard on the breast 
of the holder, a good-looking, neatly-dressed girl, deco- 
rated with tricoloured ribbons. At the back, where he 
and his companions were standing for lack of seats, he 
noticed that the men were of a different class— much 
younger, and with a speciality for gaudy neckerchief, and 

128 False Cards. 

that peculiar description of long curl on either side of 
the head so appropriately designated a Newgate knocker. 
Further, he remarked that whereas on the front benches 
there was a great paucity of women, in the back and 
unseated space there were divers gaudily-dressed females, 
young in years, but all wearing that hard, unmistakable 
countenance, that bespoke them but too clearly as of the 

"Forty thousand women with one smile, 
Who only smile at night beneath the gas," 

Taking all this in with the keen eye that to those accus- 
tomed to describe on paper what they see becomes 
almost instinct, Charlie soon became conscious that he and 
his friends were also under surveillance; that they in 
their turn had attracted the notice of a small knot of by 
no means honest-looking citizens, who apparently were 
involved in deep counsel concerning them. He quietly 
called his companions' attention to the circumstance. 

" A rough-looking lot," observed Donaldson. " Well, 
we've seen all there is to see here, and may as well be 
going — eh, Slymme ? " 

'' Right you air," replied that worthy. " Don't sup- 
pose you've either of you got a shooting-iron ? " 

Donaldspn and Charlie shook their heads. 

" Guessed as much," continued Mr. Slymme. "You'd 
better let me bring up the rear, then. Daresay your 
London police are right smart, and all the rest of it : 
but I've seen the police in my time interfere just two or 
three minutes after it ceased to be of much consequence 
to one of the parties — just when ' the subsequent pro- 
ceedings interested him no more,' so I always carry a 
Derringer on principle. I was raised down West, where 
you might get along without a watch, but not without a 
six-shooter. Now, Mr. Donaldson, slope ! " 

As the two made their way leisurely to the door, it was 
quite evident that some half score of raffish-looking young 
men were following them, and gradually closing upon 

" Keep clear," muttered Mr. Slymme — " they'll likely 
rush us the minute we're outside. If they'd only give 
me an excuse to show the iron, it would prevent a row, 

At the People's Cosmorama. I2<) 

But though quietly surrounding them, not one of these 
people had as yet given any overt cause of offence. 

It may be remembered that an individual had seemed 
struck with the appearance of Donaldson and Collingham 
at the Harmonic, that he had subsequently followed them 
in the street. He had indeed tracked them to the door 
of the People's Cosmorama, and, after some apparently 
slight debate with himself, paid his money, and entered 
that place of entertainment. He had contented himself 
with a post near the door, and though apparently but 
little interested in the lecture, was keenly observant of 
the behaviour of the audience. As the trio neared the 
doorway, he slipped through the throng, and contrived 
for a second or two to get close to them. 

"Hist! Mr. Donaldson," he whispered; "you're 
spotted. You will all three be tripped up as soon as they 
get you outside. Keep clear of the women, if you can, 
and run, if needs be, for the High Street." 

Ere Jim had time even to recognise the speaker, he had 
vanished. But he proved a true prophet, for before they 
had gone fifty yards a woman attempted to clutch his 
arm, from whom, thanks to this timely warning, he 
swung himself roughly clear, and faced about just in time 
to knock down a man who attempted to close with him 
from behind. Collingham, meanwhile, was struggling 
with two or three men, while the American, having 
hurled a woman who had grappled with him into the 
middle of the street, flashed his revolver in the face of 
his foes, placed his back to the wall, and thundered out — 

" Stand back, you skunks, or by the 'tarnal, some of 
you'll go under before your time ! " 

The sight of the pistol, and the vigorous resistance of 
both Donaldson and Collingham, caused the enemy to 
fall back — the latter had struggled clear of his assailants, 
and now stood with his back to the wall by the side of 
Slymme. How it would have fared with them it is 
bootless to conjecture, for, at that instant, from the other 
side of the street, rang, clear and shrill, the blast of a 
police whistle, and a voice from the darkness exclaimed, 

" Double up, men, look sharp ! here's a gang of pick- 
pockets on the lay." 

13° False Cards. 

In a second, both men and women were scuttling in 
the opposite direction from that of the advancing police, 

" Come along, gentlemen," said Mr. Lightfoot, as he 
crossed over to them — " we've no time to lose. I've 
only a whistle, and deuce a policeman to back me up. 
They're well scared for the present, but we'd better not 
wait for them to discover it's a bam." 

" Upon my word," exclaimed Collingham, when they 
had regained the High Street, " we're confoundedly 
obliged to you, whoever you are. You have rescued us 
from rather an awkward scrape." 

" Dear me, Charlie, don't you recognise your Scar- 
borough entertainer, now we have got back to better- 
lighted streets ? " said Donaldson, laughing. 

" No ! Not Mr. Lightfoot, is it ? How on earth did 
you happen to turn up so opportunely for us ? " 

" Well, gentlemen, I saw you in the Harmonic ; out of 
sheer whim and curiosity I followed you, to see what had 
brought you to these parts. When I saw you turn into 
the Cosrnorama, it struck me that pretty much what did 
happen would happen. My personal assistance wouldn't 
have been worth a farthing; they were too many for 
that, and my head's worth more than my hands any day. 
My only chance of serving you was to create a panic as 
soon as you were attacked, I don't think I succeeded 

" Stranger," said Mr. Slymme, who had listened at- 
tentively to the foregoing, " you're a great strategist. 
There have been great commanders who haven't sucked 
in a half of your requirements. You're spry down to the 
soles of your boots, you air — and might run alone amongst 
the Green Mountain boys. If a V spot — that is to say, 
a sovereign — is the slightest use to you " 

" Say no more, sir, say no more," interrupted Mr. 
Lightfoot, airily ; " the ever fluctuating tide of fortune is 
just now with me upon the ebb. I think there is a des- 
cription of payment generally recognised among ship- 
owners as salvage. Under the circumstances, gentlemen, 
I think I may accept that from you, without derogation 
of caste." 

The American grinned as he placed the coin in 

At the People's Cosmorama. 


Lightfoot's hand ; it was a bit of humbug after his own 
heart, that conceit of salvage. His companions followed 
suit, and then, raising his hat, Mr. Lightfoot wished them 
good night. 

" Never check curiosity," muttered Mr. Lightfoot, as 
he walked leisurely home ; " it's a laudable and lucrative 
passion. I've made three sovereigns to-night by the 
mere whim of ascertaining where those men were going 
to. There's nothing like acquiring information ; you can 
never tell but that it may turn out saleable some day." 



EONIDAS LIGHTFOOT, philosopher and 
philanthropist, resided at this time in Islington. 
Change of scene, he was wont to declare, was 
essential to his health. Ill-tempered people 
might have suggested that there were other reasons for 
his wandering existence — that, after the manner of the 
Bedouin, it behoved him to strike his tent, and away 
after a successful raid. However that might be, Mr. 
Lightfoot was no petty swindler ; constantly as he 
changed his lodgings, he always duly satisfied all trades- 
people's claims in the neighbourhood, and paid his rent. 
" Miserable mistake," he would say, " the not doing 
so, committed only by wretched neophytes who pretend 
to understand the grand mystery of living by their wits 
— occult science, which, while it never fails the past 
master, crushes 'prentices and bunglers by thousands in 
its complicated machinery. It requires as deep study as 
law or medicine, and is a vocation for which not one man 
in a thousand is adapted." 

It is the morning after Mr. Lightfoot had earned his 
salvage at the Cosmorama; breakfast is spread in a 
neatly-furnished sitting-room, into which the sun shines 
cheerily ; a smartly-dressed and by no means bad-look- 
ing woman flits about the apartment, makes the tea, and 
then quietly turns her attention to a pile of newspapers. 

A Bite at tlie Trimmers. 133 

She cuts these, and deliberately places the advertisement 
sheets upon the writing-table. While she is thus en- 
gaged, a man's voice humming a popular air, proceeds 
from the adjoining room. For a second he pauses and 

" Only three sovereigns! Damme! like Clive, when 
I think upon it, I'm lost in astonishment at my own 
moderation. Ah!" with a deep sigh; and then he 
burst forth into a fragment. 

" ' In a second back parlour in Chancery Lane 

Lived a knowing old man, who did always maintain, 
What you get you should stick to, and ever retain ; 
Which is understood only in Chancery Lane. 

In Chancery Lane, in Chancery Lane,' &c." 

" Leo," exclaims the lady, " breakfast is ready, the 
papers sorted, and there are a pile of letters for you." 

" Thanks, my dear," replied her husband. " I am 
rather late this morning. I threw away my time and 
health last night from sheer good-nature. I saved three 
lives, three purses, and made three sovereigns by the 
transaction. There is a rule of three sum for you ; 
three threes are nine, and that's the number of the 
muses. I'll be with you directly. 

" ' When your ' limited companies' burst up and smash, 
When your insurance ditto come down with a crash, 
When creditors fail their assets to obtain, 
There's by no means bad pickings in Chancery Lane — * 

In Chancery Lane, in Chancery Lane, 
There's by no means bad pickings in Chancery Lane !' " 

A few minutes more, and, robed in a shawl-pattern 
dressing-gown, Mr. Lightfoot, still humming the refrain, 
makes his appearance. 

" Well, Etta," he exclaimed, " have you run your eye 
over the daily record of man's wants, whims, and weak- 
nesses, and ascertained whether there is anything that 
looks like conducing to our benefit ? " 

" No, I haven't had time," rejoined the lady; "we'll 
go into business after breakfast." 

" Certainly, my dear. The foolishness of man is too 
sad a study to contemplate fasting, and, thanks to the 
infatuation of that elderly spinster who sought a home 
with a kindred spirit above ordinary conventionalities, 

134 False Cards. 

we are not at present in impoverished circumstances. It 
did you great credit that last hit," said Mr. Lightfoot, as 
he sipped his tea. 

" Yes," returned his lady ; " she kept a good house for 
us for six months, and if she had not fallen so desperately 
in love with you, it might have gone on still." 

" Yes, Etta ; it's the one weakness in your otherwise 
faultless disposition, that sonpcon of jealousy " 

" No, sir, it wasn't the case there. I'll not deny but 
what I can't stand more than a certain amount of your 
love-making, when it looks dangerous to myself. I 
wasn't afraid in this case, but the complications were 
getting beyond us ; it was safest to quarrel." 

Mr. Lightfoot laughed softly. 

" Yes, it was very rich, you two quarrelling over the 
fascinating Colonel ; and she, poor soul, little dreaming 
that I was your husband all the time. I never met a 
woman more determined to marry me." 

There was a dash of sharpness in Mrs. Lightfoot's tone 
as she replied — 

" Yes, but you know well I'll stand no bigamy — I'll be 
true to you, Leo, in aught else, but I'd give relentless 
evidence on that point." 

" Don't be excited, Etta ; one wife is, heaven knows, 
enough for any man, and I'm well satisfied with the one 

The lady's face softened. 

" I don't think I've been a bad one to you, Leo," she 
replied gently ; "but if you've finished, we had better 
commence work." 

Now business in the firm of Lightfoot & Co. was cer- 
tainly of an original description, Mr. Lightfoot ran 
rapidly through his letters, with a keen and practised eye. 
About three-fourths of them he tore up, and then threw 
into the grate, the remainder he laid aside for more 
mature consideration. The breakfast-things cleared 
away, Etta produced a couple of most orthodox-looking 
ledgers, placed the pile of advertisement-sheets she had 
previously collected at his elbow, and awaited further 

" The trimmers first, Etta — let's take up the trimmers, 

A R.'/r tit /'ir Triiiunrrs. 135 

I forget how many there are down just now — look at the 
book, my dear." 

Mrs. Lightfoot turned over the pages rapidly for a few 
minutes, and then replied, 

" We have nine catching advertisements out, reckon- 
ing all sorts, and twenty-two notes of what }^ou call 
'night-lines,' with the addresses you gave opposite them." 

" Let's have the regular trimmers first, Etta," replied 
her husband. 

" Well, here is, ' Wanted a gentleman with five hun- 
dred pounds capital, and of good business habits, to join 
the advertiser in floating a patent from which the highest 
results may be expected. To a young man of energy 
this affords an opening worthy of consideration. Highest 
references given and required. Address, in first instance, 
to R. O. Y., Post-office, Islington.' " 

" Nobody nibbling at that hook," rejoined Mr. Light- 
foot. " Not a letter amongst the lot that inquires about 
that patent. We haven't taken it out luckily; but 
what's the idea opposite it ? " 

" Something to be done in perforated cork," replied 
Mrs. Lightfoot, laughing. 

" Very likely," replied her husband ; "but as nobody 
seems inclined to study the scheme, I'll not bother my- 
self about working it out just now. My present concep- 
tion goes no further regarding it than the application of 
the domestic corkscrew, as occasion requires. Go on." 

" Then here's ' To Commercial Travellers. — The ad- 
vertiser is in a position to place two or three gentlemen 
in the way of joining a light but profitable business to 
their usual avocations. Address, Zeno, Post-office, King 
Street, Cheap-side.'" 

" Ah, that was the gingerbeer scheme with Alliance 
labels and teetotal ballads pasted outside the bottles. It 
ought to have come to something that, if I had managed 
to catch the commercials. An extra trifle per bottle for 
the outlay of a taking label should prove lucrative, if 
you can only sell enough of it. I am afraid, Etta, the 
commercials are not a credulous class. We'll stop that 
advertisement at once." 

But it would be wearisome to follow Mr. Lightfoot 

136 False- Cardt. 

through his nine trimmers. Suffice it to say that at the 
conclusion of the investigation he remarked to his wife, 

" Two fish on, apparently, and one of them, I think, 
from his letter, it would be sheer waste of time to try to 
land. Although he has nibbled a little at joining a 
flourishing concern at the West-end, yet he writes in a 
suspicious, business sort of way that is most offensive. 
While humanity is, as a rule, so sweetly confiding, who 
would be foolish enough to court commercial relations 
with a coarse, sceptical exception ? That young man 
who offers a bonus to anyone starting him in business, I 
think must be taken care of. We may as well have his 
bonus as anyone else ; it will be a useful lesson to him, 
do him a deal of good — show him what a wicked world 
it is, and impress upon his mind that the tenth com- 
mandment is very imperfectly observed, and that, sad to 
say, there are many people who go a step beyond covet- 
ing their neighbours' goods." 

" Will you look at the night lines next ? " inquired his 

What Mr. Lightfoot denominated his night lines, were 
such letters as he addressed to Miss Langworthy. He 
invariably gave as his address, in case of reply, certain 
initials ; an advertisement headed with which, in one of 
the leading journals, was certain to meet with his atten- 
tion. You would scarcely believe on what absurd 
grounds he launched these missives. He constantly 
wrote such notes as that he had addressed to Marion, 
without one whit more foundation to go upon. He 
found that about one in twenty bore fruit. The man 
was simply a most inventive and audacious swindler. 
He had lived well for years, principally on the advertise- 
ment sheets of the daily papers. He spent a large sum 
per annum in fraudulent notices such as above alluded 
to, and immediately replied to any advertisement that 
struck his practised eye as likely to lead to beneficial 
results to himself. He expended as much time, energy, 
and talent in concocting and perpetrating his robberies 
as would have acquired him a comfortable income at any 
legitimate business. He was most thoroughly aware of 
this himself, but there was an excitement about it, in th§ 

A Bile at tlic Trimmers. 137 

perpetual scheming, in the perpetual hovering just 
outside the clutches of the law, in the winding through 
the clumsy ringers of the police, that to this man had a 
fascination similar to the gaming-table. 

He gloried in his own adroitness. His restless brain 
was ever contriving. The obtaining possession of some 
one else's goods or money, as the result of such plotting, 
was of course the primary, but certainly not, in Lightfoot's 
case, the strongest motive. He revelled in outwitting 
his fellow men. Given the most favourable opportunity, 
and a purse laden with gold, and Lightfoot might have 
hesitated to pick a pocket ; but he would have left no 
stone unturned to bamboozle the proprietor out of such 
gold all the same. A more delicate shade of morality is 
seldom encountered. 

Mr. Lightfoot busies himself over the newspapers, and 
neglects to reply to his wife's question. Suddenly he 
exclaims, with a laugh, 

" This reads well : ' A widow lady and her daughter, 
residing in a well-furnished house at Notting Hill, offer 
a most comfortable home, replete with every convenience, 
to a bachelor of domestic habits.' Ha ! ha ! Etta, 
before I was married I should have taught that firm a 
iittle lesson. Intention evident that such bachelor 
should be led like a lamb to the altar. What fun it 
ivould have been ! I should have fooled both ladies to 
the top of their bent, named the day, &c, and, one quiet 
afternoon, have vanished, and left no trace behind. A 
sacrifice, my dear, to conjugal love, that I don't even 
now take revenge on such an audacious attempt to entrap 
the unwary male creature." 

" It does read vary like a plot of that description," 
replied his wife, laughing ; " but I don't think it's worth 
your while to prosecute now, Leo." 

" Perhaps not, unless for the fun of the thing, or on 
public grounds. It reads a little like poaching on our 
manors, Etta. However, now let us see if there's ever 
a fish on the night-lines. 

" ' la a second back-parlour in Chancery Lane,' " 
hummed the volatile Lightfoot, as he still scanned the 

138 False Cards, 

papers, while his wife ran through the list of initia, 
headings he had given to people by which they might 
communicate with him, should they need his services. 

Mr. Lightfoot had not altogether overstated his 
detective powers to Donaldson. He knew every inch ol 
London, was thoroughly conversant with all the ins and 
outs of crime, and had rather a taste for doing a little bit 
of amateur detective work now and then. He Avould 
occasionally follow up a case of celebrity, entirely for 
his own satisfaction — working it out sometimes altogether, 
sometimes only to a certain extent, as whim or fancy 
might dictate. Keeping his acquired information for 
the most part to himself, though occasionally disposing 
of it, when it turned out both valuable and marketable. 
It constantly happened that it was not the latter, as Mr. 
Lightfoot eschewed being brought into contact with the 
authorities as much as possible. At times, too, the pur- 
suance of the clue necessitated a larger outlay of money 
than he deemed advisable ; and when the chase unmis- 
takeably headed out of town, Mr. Lightfoot generally 
abandoned the pursuit, unless he had a retainer, and 
now and again he had found such upon his night-lines. 
Few things he liked better than such applications, and if 
he made his clients pay for their information, he was 
very indefatigable in their interests. 

" Stop, Etta, what was that you read out for the 
Times" he exclaimed. 

" Z, three asterisks, R," repeated his wife, slowly. 

"Ah ! a bite; 'Z * * * R is requested to drop a line, 
to say where the advertiser can communicate with him 
more fully.' What name is opposite those initials ? " 

" Miss Langworthy, Aldringham, niece of Holbourne, 
banker thereat." 

" I recollect all about it now. Good-looking girl, with 
a clever face, and something just a little suspicious about 
her mouth. What can she want ? I never fired a more 
chance shot than that. However, never mind. This is 
a fish worth landing, Etta. 

" ' In a second back-parlour in Chancery Lane, 

Lived a knowing old man, who did always maintain,' " 

sang Mr. Lightfoot, rubbing his hands cheerfully. A 

A Bite at the Trimmers. IV\ 

young lady client of this nature, with a prosperous banker 
for uncle, seemed like hitting off a vein of gold to the 
scapegrace adventurer who traded on the follies and 
passions of humanity. " Etta, my love," he resumed at 
length, " this is a young lady with a golden relative 
behind her. She is probably curious upon some point. 
I delight in administering to the wants of my fellow- 
creatures, and deem curiosity a most laudable passion. 
Why should I not appease her thirst for information ? — 
more especially, my Etta, when I look upon her as well 
able to pay for it. She looked a sharpish young lady, 
but I don't suppose she comprehends what an expensive 
amusement she is embarking in. Knowledge of one's 
neighbour's affairs should always be priced amongst the 
luxuries of life, and the purveyor of such tidings must 
be an arrant fool, if he fail to establish an indirect claim, 
which shall stand him in good stead for many a day to 
come. ' 



T must not be supposed when that Aldringham 
rumour was put before Reginald Holbourne in 
his father's letter, he was not deeply moved 
thereby — he was furious, angry with the world 
— angry, although loath to acknowledge it, with himself. 
His wrath was characterised by all the fierce, hysterical 
indignation of a woman. He knew how he was betraying 
this confiding girl, who so implicitly trusted him, with 
whom his word was law, who rr^de no effort to conceal 
her love. He knew that day b) lay, hour by hour, he 
was winding his way into the verj depths of her nature 
— that already she dressed, read, studied, thought but to 
please him ; that she was gay or sad even as his own fitful 
mood varied ; that his frowns or smiles constituted the 
clouds or sunshine of her young life. He knew all this, 
and cursed himself because it was so. Weak he was, but 
Reginald Holbourne was no libertine. He shuddered to 
think that Lettice's fair name might be smirched through 
his imprudence ; and yet he perfectly comprehended that, 
if such fate had not already befallen it, such must be the 
upshot of their intimacy. He was cheating himself 
when he pretended not to believe that he had already 
done her that injustice. In his heart of hearts, he was 
conscious how men spoke already regarding her. 

He suffered much at this time — he was torn by con- 

Passion Conquers Prmlrurr 141 

tending emotions; alternately swayed by paroxysms of 
remorse for the wrong he was doing Lettice ; then again 
swept away entirely by the violence of his passion. Anon 
he is plunged into the depths of despair, as he reflects 
upon the impossibility of bursting the fetters that bind 
him to Marion ; and even were that accomplished, how 
is he to present this unknown, friendless girl, met with 
in an obscure lodging-house, as his affianced bride to his 
pompous father ? He would have spurned the idea of 
wronging Lettice, and yet he is stealing all her fresh 
young heart from her, garnering up all her girlish love, 
to give in return — what ? Is he to tell her, a few weeks 
hence, that the past is all a dream, and that he is engaged 
to marry his cousin ? Is he to woo her still closer, and 
leave her blighted, a thing for women to scoff at, for 
angels to weep over — a flower snapped ere it had fairly 
bloomed ? Reginald would thrust such suggestion down 
the monitor's throat who should point it out ; and yet 
such sad ending is ofttimes seen to misplaced passion. 
He carefully avoids all his friends and acquaintances at 
this time, or else it was impossible but that they should 
have noticed how ill he looked. His confreres, in the 
City remark upon it. His eyes glitter with a feverish 
light, and exhibit livid rings beneath them. Lettice 
notes it too, and redoubles her care and attention. She 
would fain treat him as an invalid, and timidly urges 
him to seek medical advice. He knows better. His 
passion and his conscience tear him to pieces in the 
fierce struggle that rages between them. He is beyond 
the skill of the physician. Flight! — yes, he must fly ; 
but shall it be from Lettice, or with Lettice ? He is 
drunk with passion ; half mad with remorse ! Poor child, 
she half shrinks at times from his ardent gaze ; and 
the blood surges to her temples when her eyes meet 

But as yet he has suffered no word of love to escape his 
lips, and hugs to himself this miserable subterfuge as 
puny consolation for his conduct. He tries unavailingly 
to stifle the pricks of conscience with the thought that 
he has given no utterance to the passion that consumes 
him. Base mockery ! — as if his eveiv glance, every 


142 False Cards. 

gesture had not wooed Lettice for weeks past, as if he 
could be blind to how she regarded him. 

He looks in on Lettice one morning, as is his wont 
before starting for the City ; he has passed a restless 
night, consequent upon the intelligence that his people 
meditate coming to ' town for three weeks or a month ; 
aad a strong presentiment that neither the keen eyes of 
Marion nor his sister will be blind to the fact that there 
is something amiss with him. He looks more haggard, 
seems more nervous and depressed than usual even. 
Lettice is struck with it, and as she greets him says, 

" You look too ill to go to business to-day, Mr. 
Holbourne. Believe me, you are wrong not to see a 
doctor, and take some care of yourself." 

" Nonsense," he replies, somewhat roughly ; " I must 
go, and there's nothing the matter with me." 

" Your hand burns," said the girl. " Will you promise 
to come home as early as you can, and take me out 
somewhere ? We haven't been into the country for a 
week," she faltered, " and that always does you good, 
you know." 

Yes, for a whole week ne had debarred himself from 
the pleasure of these country rambles, thinking that by 
so doing he was smothering his love. For the last few 
days he had avoided her as much as possible, only to be 
conscious of her mute look of distress when they met, and 
the sorrowful appeal of her large earnest eyes as to how 
she had merited his displeasure. He hesitated, the temp- 
tation was great. He knew that to roam over the grass, 
or sit beneath the spreading branches of the grand old 
trees in Richmond, Bushy, or Greenwich Parks with her, 
represented paradise. He struggled to maintain the 
virtuous resolution he had formed. 

" Oh, what have I done," cried Lettice, " that you treat 
me so unkindly ! You have hardly spoken to me all the 
week. Please tell me my fault. It is only justice, Mr. 
Holbourne, to let me know wherein I have offended. 
You know I would not displease you wittingly," and the 
girl's cheeks flushed, and her mouth quivered in the 
ardour of her appeal. 

He gazed at her a moment a* she stood there before 

Passim? Conquers Prudence. 143 

him, her hands loosely clasped, her eyes cast meekly 
down, awaiting the specification of her misdoings. 

" Done ! you have done nothing, child. It is I that 
have been out of sorts, out of temper, harassed, worried." 

" Then you are not angry with me ?" she exclaimed, as 
her eyes flashed brightly up into his face, and a smile 
played about her lips. " Ah, I was so afraid — I did not 
know how, but I thought that I had offended you ! " 

" Nonsense, Lettice ; I have not been well, that is all." 

" Oh yes, I know how selfish I am, but," she continued 
smiling, " I am so afraid of getting into disgrace with 
you. You sometimes scold me, and that I don't mind, 
but you must never be angry with me without scolding. 
You won't, will you ? " 

" No, you foolish child, and we will go for a run to- 
day. It will be good for both of us," replied Reginald, 
his prudential resolutions scattered to the winds. " Mind 
you have your bonnet on by half-past four." 

" Delightful ! " cried the girl, clapping her hands. 
" If I have done amiss I know I shall be forgiven now. 
Where shall we go ? " 

"Think. I must be off, and you shall tell me when 
I return." 

Lettice sat for some time after Reginald had left her 
wrapped in thought. No unpleasant dream-land that, I 
ween, into which her fancy wandered, if the shining light 
in her eyes, and happy smile on her lips, may be deemed 
indication of a maiden's mind. She was beginning to 
awake to the fact that Reginald Holbourne was all the 
world to her. She did not attempt to disguise it to her- 
self — she acknowledged she loved him. Did he love her ? 
She did not know ; she thought so, she hoped so, but 
then he was so far above her ! And then romantic 
Lettice reflected that King Cophetua loved the beggar- 
maid, and had not Helena won Bertram at last ? Did 
not Ferdinand woo Miranda, not knowing her a Princess ? 
And did not all the old romancers tell that love was lord 
of all ? She was so happy in her new-born love, that she 
gave but little thought of what might come of it. If 
Reginald would but confess that he loved her, that was 
all she wished for at present. Reginald ! she murmured 

144 False Cards, 

the name softly to herself twice or thrice — would the 
time ever come when she should dare address him thus ? 
But she was wasting time sadly ; this would never do — 
she must see to her wardrobe. She must look her very 
best when she was to go out with him. He was dread- 
fully particular, and dressing for one of these excursions 
was matter of as much thought and perturbation to 
Lettice as a toilette for the Queen's ball is to some of her 
aristocratic sisters. Then she had to settle where they 
were to go, and Reginald always expected her to know all 
about the trains ; and, with these reflections. Lettice 
jumped to her feet, and began to be very busy indeed. 

First, she explained to her grandfather that Mr. Hol- 
bourne had offered to take her out for a trip info the 
country, and asked his permission. Little difficulty about 
that. The old gentleman thought little about anything 
unconnected with his own comforts. He was lapped in 
the egotism that is so constantly educed by the infirmi- 
ties of age — more especially when conjoined with indif- 
ferent health. 

" Very well, Lettice," he replied. " I am glad to think 
of your getting a little pleasure at odd times — it is some- 
what dull for you here, child. But I can't have my 
dinner put off — I can't be kept waiting for you to come 

" No, grandfather dear, I will see about all that. Sarah 
shall bring up your dinner at the usual time ; and, as for 
me, I daresay I shall manage to find a crust of bread-and- 
butter and some tea later." 

" Ay, that will do. I hope you will have a pleasant 
afternoon." And the old man once more resumed his 
study of the paper. 

" Grandfather dear, will you let me have a little 
money, please ? " said Lettice, timidly, as she seated her- 
self on a stool at his feet. 

" Money ! — and what may you want with money? I 
presume Mr. Holbourne doesn't call upon you to pay for 
cabs or railway fares on these occasions ? " And the old 
man peered suspiciously down upon her. 

" No, indeed," faltered Lettice, as she coloured pain- 
fully ; " I'm afraid he knows the emptiness of my purse 

Passicn Cviii/i/n-'s Prudence. 145 

but too well. But, grandfather, there are articles of dress 
that I must have. I want some gloves, for one thing." 

" Gloves ! What does it signify whether a child like 
you has gloves or not ? " 

"You forget I'm not far from seventeen years old," 
retorted Lettice, defiantly ; " and people begin to- think 
us young women at that age." 

" Seventeen years old, you monkey ? How time passes ! 
— I'd never have thought it. And now, just like your 
mother before you, you want to scatter my gear to trick 
yourself out in gews and gauds, in ribbons and laces. Go 
to, wench ! " 

" Nay, grandfather, I'm sure it's seldom I come to you. 
It is but little I spend on my dress — no girl could manage 
upon less than I do. But you must let me have a sove- 
reign now." 

" D'ye think I'm made of gold, girl ? — or have share 
in the sands of Paotolus ? An' I be not guarded of my 

' In spite 
Of all my thrift and care, I'll grow behindhand. ' " 

Things looked ill for Lettice's request, but that young 
lady was cognisant of a pet weakness of her grandfather's. 
For a second she paused, and then, with a smile of mock 
humility, made answer — 

' ' ' We, ignorant of ourselves, 
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers 
Deny us for our good.' 

But nevertheless, grandfather, pleasure me in this thing, 
I pray you." 

"Aptly quoted, wench! — well put!" exclaimed the 
old man, in great delight. " But mark me, Lettice, this 
must last you a long time — it's gold, child, and gold 
waxes hard to come by." 

A quarter-past four sees Lettice in gipsy-hat and 
dainty muslin robe, sitting at the window, anxiously 
awaiting Reginald's return. Thanks to her quick memory 
and knowledge of her grandfather's weakness, her hands 
are neatly gloved. The girl's eyes sparkle with antici- 
pation of pleasure, and glance impatiently from the street 
to the timepiece. Shall this day and that apt quotat ; 

I4 6 False Cards. 

recur to her memory in days to come ? — who knows ? 
No anticipation of evil clouds the bright, eager young 
face at present. The sorrows of the future are as yet 
mercifully locked in the womb of Time. At last she 
catches sight of him, and runs to open the door. 

" Ready, Lettice ! " he exclaimed — " come along, then. 
What a punctual little girl it is ! " and he looked fondly 
down upon her as she slipped her hand beneath his arm. 
" And Avhere are we bound for ? " 

" Let us go to Richmond, and stroll along by the river, 
or wander in the park — whichever you like best. It is 
all beautiful down there, and we can forget hot, dusty 
Baker Street for two or three hours." 

So to Richmond they wended their way. Reginald 
felt a thrill of exultation run through his veins as he 
noticed the glances of admiration that were more than 
once bestowed upon his fair companion. Weak and un- 
stable of character, even in his love he would fain be 
endorsed by the world's opinion — would wish that men 
should deem the object of his worship peerless among 
women. To-day he has thrown aside all scruples of con- 
science, and given himself up wholly to the enjoyment 
of the hour. They have wandered about the park till 
they are tired, and have now seated themselves on the 
soft, velvety turf, beneath the shade of a gnarled old oak. 

" Have you no relations beyond your grandfather, Let- 
tice ?" he asks, lazily, at last. 

" Not that I know of," replied the girl, slowly. " I 
had a sister four or five years older than myself, but she 
married, and died shortly afterwards. I loved her very 
dearly, but never saw her but once after she left us." 

" Have you never seen your brother-in-law since ? " 

" No," said Lettice, musingly. " He was very kind to 
me, and used to make rather a pet of me when he was 
courting Lilian. I think sometimes it is perhaps grand- 
father's fault. You know, Mr. Holbourne, he is very 
fond of money. I was hardly old enough to learn the 
rights of the story, but either my brother-in-law wanted 
money, or, what is quite as likely, grandfather fancied he 
might, and so gave him scant encouragement to come 
and see us. It was perhaps that, but I don't know," and 

Piission Conquers Prudence. 147 

Lettice absently pulled to pieces some wild flowers she 
had plucked. 

" Then, if anything happened to your grandfather, you 
would be all alone in the world ? " said Reginald. 

" All alone," she murmured, sadly. " Ah i Mr. Hol- 
bourne," she continued, as the taars welled to her eyes, 
" it is cruel to remind me of how desolate I may be ere 
long ! " 

" No, Lettice," he whispered, in deep, passionate tones, 
as he drew her to him — " never alone in this world while 
I live. I love you, Lettice — love you so dearly that to 
lose you would be to lose the sun of my existence — to 
leave life a blank — to canker the very current of my 
blood ! I never told you so in words, but you have 
known it for weeks past. Say, dearest, I do not woo in 

She hid her face upon his shoulder for a few seconds 
as she yielded to his embrace ; then raising it, roseate 
with blushes, murmured simply " I love you," and surren 
dered her lips to his passionate kiss. 

" There," he exclaimed, as he released her. " Mine 
now, Lettice, come weal, come woe; are you not ?" 

" Come weal, come woe," she faltered, in low tones and 
with downcast eyes. 

She could scarce trust herself as yet to speak ; she was 
afraid to let him see the rapturous light that glistened in 
her eyes. She took shame to herself that she had aban- 
doned her lips to him so readily. The blood surged 
madly through her veins, and she feared that he might, 
even detect the wild pulsations of her heart. 

They sat silent for some little time, her hand locked in 
his. The declaration of pent-up passion had at last burst 
its bonds, and neither was inclined to speak. The fierce 
impetuosity of his love had infected her, and she trem- 
bled at her own happiness. 

" Come, Lettice," he said at length, " it is getting time 
to go ; " and as he raised her from the ground he once 
more clasped her in his arms. 

" Oh ! please don't, Mr. Holbourne," she whispered. 
" Let me go." 

" You don't deserve it," he replied. " Say Reginald." 


False Cards, 

She raised her lips to his for a moment, then, murmur- 
ing shyly " Please, Reginald," slipped from his embrace. 

Slowly they sauntered back to the station, but little 
conversation passed between them. Reginald Holbourne, 
at the height of his passion for Marion, had never found 
himself tongue-tied, and now he seemed to have no words 
to bestow on this girl whose love he had won — a love, 
too, that thrilled through his every pulse in a manner all 
unknown to that first passion of his youth. Lettice, 
however, seemed quite content ; her heart was too full 
for speech, and Reginald felt her little hand flutter as he 
gave her his arm through the crowd. 

" I won't come in to see your grandfather to-night, 
darling," said Holbourne, when they again arrived in 
Baker Street. " I shall go to my own den, and dream 
over my happiness. Good night, Lettice, my own." 

" Good night," she whispered, and with a shy little nod 



EMANDEZ ma voiture ! " 

" Le ma est l'accomplissement du mariage. 
Pendant deux ans on a dit la voiture de 
Monsieur, la voiture, notre voiture, et 
enfin ma voiture." So saith Balzac. But woman 
is at no loss to insinuate such authority over he; 
male surroundings, although not fortified by the 
chains of matrimony ; old bachelors have been but as 
tops in the hands of termagant housekeepers ere now, 
more sleepy and less mutinous in proportion to their 
scourging; while mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, &c, have 
reduced widowers to complete subjection in two years 
and demanded " my carriage " when it seemed good to 

Miss Langworthy had ruled her uncle's house now for 
four years, and, I need scarcely add, at the present time 
exercised perfectly despotic sway therein. The banker, 
good, easy man, at times fussed and fidgeted, and made 
a feeble demonstration of domineering over his own 
establishment, but it imposed upon nobody but himself. 
The servants knew perfectly well that master's bluster 
was as nothing in comparison with the calm, cutting 
reprimands of his niece — that Mr. Holbourne's wrath 
evaporated in stormy, incoherent reproof ; but that when 
Miss Langworthy found fault, something was wont to 

ISO False Cards. 

come of it. Marion would dedicate herself to the per- 
secution of an offending housemaid with an assiduity 
worthy of a better cause. 

Of late she had been rather disturbed by the rebellious 
spirit manifested by her cousin. Grace was perfectly 
aware of how Marion usurped the position that of right 
belonged to herself. She was now old enough to make 
a stand against Miss Langworthy's dictatorial edicts, and 
more especially did she now wage fierce internecine war 
on the subject of " ma voitureP She claimed equal dis- 
position of the carriage with her cousin, and flatly 
declined to abate one particle of such privilege. Marion 
was much annoyed at this disaffection in her domestic 
kingdom, and felt rancorously disposed towards Grace in 
consequence. She could hardly expect her uncle to in- 
terfere in the matter, to the prejudice of his own 
daughter — that daughter, moreover, only laying claim 
to a half when she was fairly entitled to a whole. 

It had been Grace's growing intimacy with Sylla 
Collingham that had given rise to this difference between 
them. Grace continually wanted the carriage to go to 
Churton. Miss Langworthy detested Churton ; she did 
not get on either with Sylla or Sir John, and from ex- 
perience she knew that she was much mote likely to see 
Robert Collingham in Aldringham than at Churton. A 
sharp passage of arms had taken place between the 
cousins on the subject, whereby Miss Langworthy made 
two disagreeable discoveries, to wit, that her monopoly 
of the carriage was at an end, and that Grace could suc- 
cessfully assert her independence. These seemed positive 
injuries to Marion's mind ; she brooded over them at 
times with feelings much the reverse of friendly towards 
her cousin. 

Robert Collingham, meanwhile, continued his visits to 
the banker's house. He was quite an habitue there now, 
and they, saw him fully four days out of the seven. 
Aldringham was not likely to overlook such fair cause 
of gossip, but varied much in opinion as to which it was 
of the young ladies that so attracted him. While one 
portion of the town held that he wooed Miss Holbourne, 
the other declared that his attentions were directed to 

An Awkward ]\li slake. 1 5 T 

her cousin. Marion was herself at times somewhat per- 
plexed upon the subject, but of late, upon discovering 
that Grace's absence produced apparently little effect 
upon him — that he was quite as willing to sit, talk, and 
have tea with her, and that the non-appearance of Miss 
Holbourne led to no more than courteous inquiry con- 
cerning her, and a civil message of regret at not seeing 
her — Marion had come to the conclusion that these 
visits were meant exclusively for her fair self. 

Miss Langworthy was gifted with quite her share of 
vanity, yet she appraised her attractions in by no means 
an extravagant manner. If she held her personal 
charms rather higher than circumstances quite warranted, 
she laid far more stress upon her tact and talent of 
making the very best of herself in every way. She knew 
well that a woman who could talk pleasantly, and help 
men out in the making of conversation, oftentimes dis- 
tanced her handsomer sisters in the race matrimonial. 
She had seen many a beauty with all the men at her 
feet upon first coming out, and marked how short such 
sway held power, unless the pretty face had something 
behind it. Boys' heads were still turned, it was true, 
but those of more mature growth and understanding 
soon tired of such doll's flesh. Marion knew that few 
who had once paid court to her ever failed in their alle- 
giance; and it was knowledge of this that filled her 
breast at times with bitter indignation against Reginald 
Holbourne. He, she felt, was bound to her by faint ties 
of affection now. True, she cared in reality nothing 
about him ; but that did not the less prevent her resent- 
ing his defalcation. She took a malicious pleasure in 
making him feel his chains at times, although she had 
slight idea of ever marrying him. 

Marion had, in sooth, good reason to suppose herself 
the magnet that attracted Robert Collingham. Even 
when Grace was present, it was to Miss Langworthy that 
he principally addressed his conversation. Robert Col- 
lingham was deemed heavy among men. He could talk 
sensibly enough if the conversation ran in those two 
grooves, agriculture or shooting, in which his life was 
bound up ; but outside them he was mute. Now, that 

IS 2 False Cords. 

ingenious idea of Punch with which Mr. Collingham had 
opened his undefined siege in the banker's drawing-room, 
although it had done him yeoman's service in the preli- 
minary skirmishing, of course proved inadequate as his 
visits waxed of greater length. But when Miss Lang- 
worthy had finally determined that this devotion was 
meant for herself, that it was at her altar that such in- 
cense was burnt, she devoted herself nobly to his 
assistance. This ingenious young lady took to reading 
the Agricultural Journal, and divers other works of a 
similar character, and, by airing the knowledge thus 
acquired, made conversation both easy and interesting 
for her admirer. Mr. Collingham was delighted ; he got 
quite animated upon one occasion, and was so carried 
away by Miss Langworthy's critical remarks upon the 
double plough that he declared he must speak to Sir John 
about letting her a farm. 

" Hum," mused Marion, after his departure, " this scien- 
tific talk is not favourable to flirtation. If he'd talk to 
Sir John about letting me a husband, 'twould be more to 
the purpose. I presume that at last is to be the issue of 
his bucolic mind. Ah ! me, it's weary work when one 
has to do so much of the wooing oneself." 

And then her thoughts reverted to those bygone days 
when Reginald was at her feet, and she bitterly contrasted 
his wild, boyish devotion with the phlegmatic attentions 
of her present admirer. Had she tried to keep that 
love ? No ; in all honesty, Marion was fain to confess to 
herself that, though she had been at some pains to main- 
tain their engagement, she had exercised little industry 
to keep alight the fire which had once burnt so fiercely. 

It is a delicious Summer morning. The hum of the bees 
and the fragrance of the flowers come pleasantly through 
the open window, at which Grace Holbourne sits reading, or 
to speak, perhaps, more accurately, musing. Her book lies 
in her lap unheeded, although the slender fingers still 
keep mark of the page. Miss Langworthy is busily 
engaged writing letters at a Davenport, and the scratching 
of her pen alone breaks the silence. Suddenly the door 
opens, and the banker appears — apparition most unusual 
at that hour in that apartment. His countenance flashed 

An Awkivard Afist^lw 153 

with gratified pride ; he flourishes the double gold eye- 
glass with much magnificence — his whole form is swelling 
with self-importance. His tall, portly figure positively 
dilates with the intelligence of which he is bearer. 
Marion at a glance sees that her uncle is overflowing with 
some subject tending to his self-glorification, and patiently 
awaits the unfolding thereof. Grace, too, although by 
no means so quick at reading her father as Miss Lang- 
worthy, speedily discerns ^that he is in a state of great 
jubilation, from some cause or another. 

"Ha! girls," he exclaimed, jocularly, "what for my 
news this morning, eh ? " 

" That would be to buy a pig in a poke, indeed, uncle," 
retorted Marion. "It may be that consols are down, 
which concerns us little. It may be that discount is 
raised, which concerns us less." 

" It may be that you bring new dresses, which concerns 
us much ; or new ornaments which concerns us more," 
cried Grace, laughing. 

" Faith, child, that's not altogether a bad shot of yours. 
If I don't bring silks or jewels, I bring that which leads 
to both," replied Mr. Holbourne. " A welcome gift to 
most young ladies at any time." 

"And that is ? " inquired Marion. 

" A husband ! " 

" What ? " exclaimed Grace. 

" A husband ! It's a doosid flattering thing, and a 
handsome tribute to my position in the country, to find 
a good old county family like the Collinghams seeking 
an alliance with mine. I'm quite aware, my dears, that 
your own charms are quite sufficient warranty for young 
men falling in love with either of you, but of course they 
would feel also that William Holbourne is rather a desir- 
able relation to count upon in these parts. I think," he 
continued, with facetious humility, the name is not alto- 
gether unknown in Aldringham and tht surrounding 

The banker paused, and played with his tj, ^ glass, as, 
Avith half-shut eyes, and benignant smile, he took an intro- 
spective view of his own importance. 

• ! Of course," he continued, gazing apparently at the 

154 False Cards. 

mantelpiece, and speaking more as if soliloquising than 
addressing himself to either lady, " I should never dream 
of asserting any authority of mine on a point like this. 
It is obviously my duty to point out that a man like 
Robert Collingham is a desirable parti ; that he is of a 
good family, good position and of fair means ; that he in 
due course will take yet higher position. Still, if you 
have any objection to view him in the light of a 
husband " 

" Then Robert Collingham has asked your consent to 
pay his addresses, uncle," interposed Miss Langworthy, 
with a pout. " He might have known in these days that 
it is more usual to obtain the lady's consent first on such 
a subject." And Marion tossed her head with much con- 

Grace, meanwhile, contemplated this announcement with 
grave interest. She was quite aware how unsuited Marion 
was to her brother, and suspected that very little love 
existed between them at present. What would Marion 
do ? Would she have the hardihood to boldly throw 
Reginald over in the presence of his sister ? How stupid 
it was of her father not to have made this announcement 
to Marion alone ! As it was, she felt in the delicate 
position of being looker-on in a conference at which it 
was most desirable she should not be present. 

" I don't agree with you, Marion," replied Mr. Hol- 
bourne, pompously. " It may be the custom in these 
levelling days, but I think Mr. Collingham is perfectly 
right. I am old-fashioned enough to consider that the 
head of the family is the first to be consulted in a matter 
that so nearly concerns him." 

Miss Langworthy saw that she had made a mistake 
— that she had ruffled the feathers of the banker's self- 

"Excuse me, uncle," she replied; " it is no doubt right 
that it should be so ; but girls," she continued, smiling, 
" can't help feeling a little jealous when the avowal is not 
made to them in the first instance. We take it ill that 
men should dare ask our hands from anyone but our- 

" Well, I daresay you don't quite mean as much as you 

An Awkward Mistake. 155 

say, Marion ; but Robert Collingham's is an offer worth 
consideration. What am I to say to him Grace ?" 

"Grace!" ejaculated Miss Langworthy, as the blood 
flew to the very roots of her hair. 

' I, father ! " exclaimed Miss Holbourne, in blank 
astonishment — " why, what have I to do with it ?" 

" Do with it, girl ! Why, when I tell you as plainly 
as I can speak that Robert Collingham asks you to be his 
wife, I should fancy you had a good deal to do with 

" Ask me, father ! You mistake, your message is for 

"Not at all, Grace," exclaimed Miss Langworthy, 
quickly. " I have foreseen his proposal was imminent for 
some time, my dear. Pray allow me to offer my congratu- 
lations, and leave you to arrange matters with your father." 
And darting a most malignant look at her cousin, Marion 
swept out of the room. 

"Old idiot ! " she muttered between her clenched teeth, 
as the door closed behind her ; " to think how he has 
made me commit myself, and to know that my chit of a 
cousin saw it all ! That I, Marion Langworthy, who 
deemed she had a head upon her shoulders, should have 
been made a mere catspaw of ! But take heed, the three 
of you," she continued, as the hot, angry tears of shame 
and vexation started to her eyes ; "you shall find Marion 
ill to jest with — albeit you have fooled her this time." 

" Oh, father ! " exclaimed Grace, as the door closed — 
" how could you lead her into such a trap ! " 

Mr. Holbourne was dimly conscious that he had con- 
ducted his embassy badly. Despite her efforts to control 
herself, he had not been blind to his niece's flushed face 
and indignant exit. 

" Good gracious ! " he exclaimed — " why, what is the 
matter ? " 

" Can't you see, father ? Marion thought, as she had 
good right to think, that Robert Collingham's proposal 
was addressed to her. He has paid her far more attention 
than he ever did me." 

" God bless me ! " exclaimed the banker; " and I thought 
I had put it so perfectly clear before you." 

1 56 False G 


" But you did not, father ; until you had mentioned 
my name, I had no idea but what it was to Marion you 
were speaking." 

" Now don't be absurd, Grace. You and Marion of 
course had come to a foregone conclusion on the subject, 
and therefore had made made up your minds as to whorr. 
Robert Collingham's proposal would be addressed ; but 
as for telling me, a magistrate of nearly twenty years 
standing, and a man of business to boot, that I can't put 
a case lucidly, it's too ridiculous." 

" Well, father," replied Grace, " the fact remains the 
same ; we did misunderstand you, and I am afraid you 
have caused Marion much annoyance." 

" I am sorry for that," returned Mr. Holbourne, " very 
sorry, I should be grieved to wound Marion's feelings ; 
but, at the same time, what am I to say to Robert 
Collingham ? His message is to you, Grace. Let us 
have no further misunderstandings. 

" Tell him, please, that I am very sensible of the 
honour that he has shown me, but that it cannot be." 

" Don't be foolish, child. It's a good match for you. 
Think over it till to-morrow before you say him nay." 

" If I thought over it till doomsday, I should never say 
him otherwise," retorted Grace, decidedly. " You may 
tell him so when you please ; " and to evade further con- 
verse on the subject, Miss Holbourne made her escape 
into the garden. 

And what all this time were Marion's reflections ? She 
had betaken herself to her own room, and shutting her- 
self in with her wrath had sat down to think. Bitterer 
meditation seldom fell to the lot of maiden. She who 
was wont to hold her head high, had stooped to angle 
for a man's good will, only to find herself tricked, and 
her cousin whom she held in slight esteem preferred 
before her. Then she had but little doubt that Reginald 
was playing her false, and bestowing on another the love 
solemnly plighted to her. True, she had been just as 
ready to prove false to her vows as he could be, and she 
had as yet, moreover, nothing but mere rumour on which 
to accuse him of infidelity. Still in Marion's eyes her 
jilting him was a thing to laugh at, while the converse 

An Awkward Mistake, 157 

was a crime which called upon the gods for vengeance. 
Then, again, Marion was a woman who loved power, and 
she viewed with some dismay and much dislike Grace's 
calm but gi'adual assertion of her actual position. Miss 
Langworthy felt that the domestic sceptre was slipping 
from her grasp. She ground her white teeth as she mused 
over all these things, and gradually worked herself into a 
feeling of extreme rancour as regarded three people — to 
wit, Grace, Reginald, and Robert Collingham. 

" As sure as there is a sun in heaven, Grace and Robert 
Collingham shall pay dear for this morning's work ! " 
muttered Marion at last, with an angry stamp of her 
foot. " She will be out of my way if she marries him, 
and one path to vengeance open to me at once. 'Twould 
be best so. He may wed her from prudential motives, 
but I don't think he will altogether forget-that the hours 
sped lightly in my society. He will stoop to my lure 
again, I fancy ; and if so, be it my business to see the 
matrimonial shackles sit none too easy. As for Reginald, 
I must first have clear proof of his guilt. Time enough 
then to think of fitting punishment for the offence. I 
can, I suppose, do nothing regarding this till we go to 
town. We all lie glib enough on paper. Stop ! Where 
did I put that eccentric epistle I received at the Fancy 
Fair. It's a mere chance, but the man declared himself 
a detective. I'll try him ; he shall ascertain who this 
light-o'-love of Reginald's is, if he can." 

The result of these reflections was that Mr. Lightfoot 
found a nibble at one of his night lines, as we have already 



EGINALD HOLBOURNE, the morning after 
that Richmond excursion, springs from a bed 
of roses to confront once more this world's dull 
realities. He had fallen asleep lulled by the 
sweet consciousness that Lettice loved him — that the 
words that bound them irrevocably to each other had 
been at last spoken — that the struggle between his con- 
science and his passion was over — that he had won the 
girl in whom his whole being was wrapped up. 

But reflection comes with the dawn, and the roses of 
evening are apt to develop their thorns by daylight. As 
he goes through man's grimmest matutinal task, the 
operation of shaving — when, looking our worst, we are 
compelled to confront ourselves, and meditate upon the 
lines that sins and advancing years have written upon 
our countenances — he muses in troubled fashion upon 
his complications. Of course he must break with Marion 
now — but how ? The letter that is to carry that intelli- 
gence does not seem quite so easy to pen as he had 
deemed it last night. How is he to put it ? What is 
he to say ? This new love of his will hardly be an 
eligible excuse for the breaking of that long-plighed 
troth. And then Reginald feels bitter shame at the idea 
of throwing over a girl whose love he had won as an 
heiress, now that she is but slenderly endowed with this 

Ordered Abroad. 159 

world's gear. He need have little compunction, did he 
know all ; but then, that is precisely what he does not 
know, and he believes Marion thoroughly true to her 

Well, he thinks there is no necessity for writing that 
letter to-day. Like most weak men, he takes comfort 
in the idea of procrastination. Something may turn up 
— of a verity something will turn up, that shall make 
him regret such procrastination for many a long day. A 
jealous, irritated woman, stung to madness by recent 
disappointment, is even now searching into the truth of the 
story so current already at Aldringham, and her emissary 
will have scant trouble about striking the trail. Better 
he should make a clean breast, did he but know it, than 
live to learn of what an outraged woman can be capable. 
When they are of a type as cool, clever, and unscrupu- 
lous as Marion Langworthy, the beverage produced by 
such brewings is wont to be bitter in the mouth. 

Anon, Reginald begins to think upon what he is to 
do regarding Lettice. He is pretty nearly dependent 
upon his father, as far as income goes, his salary in the 
City at present being a very small affair. That his 
pompous father, with his exaggerated notions about his 
own position, would listen for one moment to the idea of 
his marrying a girl with neither money nor family, was 
scarcely probable. Nothing should induce him to give 
up Lettice ; and yet he was quite aware that, if this busi- 
ness came to Mr. Holbourne's ears, and he should persist, 
in defiance of his father's^ wishes, in adhering to his 
engagement, it was more than likely that his allowance 
would be withdrawn. 

The more he thought over things, the more unpleasant 
chey seemed, and it was with a moody brow that he 
descended the stairs. The door of the ground-floor 
parlour stood open ; he entered, and Lettice, her eyes 
sparkling with pleasure, and her cheeks glowing with 
blushes, advanced to meet him. 

" Reginald," she said shyly — " I'm almost afraid to call 
you so as yet — I couldn't let you go without seeing you 
this morning. Wns it all a dream yesterday, or did you 
tell me you loved me ?" 

160 False Cards. 

"I told you so yesterday, and tell you so again this 
morning, darling," he replied, as he clasped her in his 
arms and kissed her ; " and mean to tell you so for ever, 
as long as I have breath wherewith to give it utter- 

"Ah ! " said the girl, as she looked fondly up into his 
face, " it is true, then, and not a fevered vision of the 
night ? I am yours, and you are mine — my very own, 

" Yes, sweet, ' an ill-favoured thing, child, but thine 
own,' as your grandfather would say. Are you sorry, 
Lettice, that you gave away your heart in Richmond 
Park yesterday ? " 

" No, I am proud and pleased I did so. But I think 
you had it before, if all were told." 

" Well, child, that is a confession you shall make to 
me this afternoon. ' For which of my good parts you 
did first suffer love for me ? ' Your grandfather's talk is 
catching, Lettice — he leads me into quotation, as he did 
into reading the dramatists. Mind you have your bonnet 
on by half-past four. For the present good-bye." And, 
snatching another kiss, Reginald Holbourne took his 
departure in far more jubilant spirits than those with 
which he had descended the stairs. 

Fair to gaze upon is Lettice as she sits curled up in 
the window this Summer morning, her masses of dark 
hair skilfully coiled round her head, and deftly kept 
within bounds by a bright blue ribbon, a smile playing 
on her lips, and the dark luminous eyes glowing with the 
happy light of assured love. She is not thinking in the 
least of the future ; the present suffices her amply. She 
supposes Reginald will marry her before long; but in 
the meantime he loves her, and she is going for a ramble 
with him this afternoon — what more can she want ? 
Love him ? — oh ! yes — does she not truly and honestly ? 
And then Lettice amuses herself trying to puzzle out 
how it was she first lost her heart to him ? And the 
psychological question occupies her for near upon an 
hour. Commend me to those under the influences of 
the god. Sweeter warrant for all folly shall never be 
quoted. Sad it is when our hearts wax callous, and laugh 

Ordered Abroad. 1 6 1 

to scorn the arrows of Eros, when, alas ! we no longer 
vow the grandest scene of ancient history was 

"Actium, lost for Cleopatra's eyes." 
We may be wiser, we may be richer, we may be better, 
but the golden hours have departed never more to return. 
T have always thought that Anthony was more blessed 
than is common to mortals. The power to love lasted 
long with him, and he perished in the hey-day of his 

But there are ever links in love's flowery chain, and, to 
Lettice's dismay, her grandfather insisted upon it that 
she should accompany him to the Regent's Park that 
afternoon. The girl strove hard to evade this arrange- 
ment, but the old gentleman was peremptory, and she 
did not quite like to tell him that Reginald had promised 
to take her out. She felt angry with herself for not 
stating so boldly — and yesterday it had been easy to do 
so ; but now he was her avowed lover. Lettice's heart 
fluttered as she thought of it, and her lips seemed less 
glib with his name than they were wont to be. What 
was she to do ? She did not like to confess how matters 
stood between them to her grandfather, until she had 
Reginald's permission to do so. And yet he might feel 
hurt if she failed in her tryst ; so she scribbled a little 
timid note, telling him where she was gone, hoping he 
would not be cross with her, " for indeed she could not 
help it," and would he follow them ? Having entrusted 
this to the servant, with stringent injunctions that it 
was to be given into Mr. Holbourne's hands the moment 
he returned, Lettice set off with her grandfather on the 
proposed walk. 

Before they had got twenty paces from the door they 
encountered a well-dressed man, with somewhat retrousse 
nose and keen grey eyes, who regarded them attentively 
as he courteously made way for them. 

'' Hum ! " he muttered, after they had passed. "That's 
the young lady, I'll lay a guinea to a gooseberry. My 
esteemed client, fair though you be, if you suspect a 
rival in Mr. Holbourne's affections, you have good cause 
to feel somewhat uncomfortable. I should fancy your 
thirst for information springs from that amiable weakness 

1 62 False Cards. 

Sailed jealousy. However, now to prosecute inquiries. 
A stroke of luck seeing the lady to start with. Yes, no 
doubt about it, this is the door they came out of." And 
without further ceremony he rang the bell. 

" You let lodgings, I think ? " said Mr. Lightfoot, 
airly, as the maid-servant appeared. 

" Yes, sir ; but we are quite full at present." 

" Mr. Holbourne lives here, does he not ? " 

"Yes, sir; but he ain't in just now. Shall I tell him 
you called ? " 

" No. I understood the gentleman and his daughter, 

Mr. Good gracious, I've forgotten his name ! " And 

here Mr. Lightfoot knit his brows anxiously. 

" Mr. Cheslett, you mean, sir, who has the parlours ? " 

l< Exactly. I thought he was about to give up his 
rooms ? " 

" Oh ! no, sir. He has only just gone out ; you must 
have passed him, if you'd known." 

" True, I did pass an old military gentleman and his 

" Bless you, sir, he ain't an officer, any more than Miss 
Lettice is his daughter." 

" Excuse me, Major Cheslett and his daughter, I was 
informed, were the people about to give up their apart- 

" Well, he don't call himself Major, or Captain, or 
anything else of that sort ; and as for Miss Lettice, why, 
she's his granddaughter, everyone knows." And Sarah 
quite grinned at the ignorance of the inquirer. 

That the world is small there is no doubt, and I often 
hear my wandering friends complain of their inability to 
cut themselves off from the ken of their acquaintance ; 
but we all suffer in our turns from the pith of Sarah's 
last observation. Unless you never change your own 
social tramway for another, you must have, at some time 
in your life, been covered with confusion at not knowing 
" the great Craggs." Every stratum of society is more 
or less cursed with its Craggs — in forty-nine cases out of 
fifty the most miserable fetish ever worshipped. Sarah's 
idea of a Craggs was much sweeter and more justifiable 
than such as usually does duty for that wretched mock 

Ordered Abroad. 1 63 

idol. She looked upon Lettice as the dominant goddess 
of her little world, and felt pity and disdain for this 
unfortunate who was so ignorant of her history. 

" Then you have nothing at all to let at present ? " 
said Mr. Lightfoot. 

"No, sir." 

" Thank you ; I must try elsewhere." And with an 
affable nod to Sarah Mr. Lightfoot took his departure, 
having acquired all the information he sought without 
the slightest difficulty. 

Marion's instructions had been curt and business-like 
in the extreme. She gave him Reginald's address. He 
was to ascertain whether a young lady lived in that 
house ; if so, who she was, what she was, whether young 
or good-looking. Equally short and business-like was 
the missive despatched by that night's post to Miss 

" I have made the inquiries you desired. The ground- 
floor of No. — , Baker Street, is occupied by an old 
gentleman named Cheslett and his granddaughter. 
The young lady appears to be about seventeen, and is an 
extremely handsome brunette, by name Lettice. Await- 
ing your further instructions, I have the honour to 
be, &c, 

" Your most obedient servant, 

" Leonidas Lightfoot." 

Reginald Holbourne experienced infinite disgust upon 
his return from the City, when, instead of finding Lettice 
herself waiting for him, he only found her note. I am 
afraid he referred to the venerable Cheslett in terms very 
far from complimentary. Sarah had a confused idea of 
catching such muttered commentary on that note as 
" Imbecile old mummy ! " " Exacting old idiot ! " &c, 
and wondered not a little what it was that had put "the 
drawing-rooms," as she denominated him, so much out 
of temper. That observing and gossiping damsel had 
for some time made up her mind that " the drawing- 
rooms " and the " parlours " would make a match of it. 
She looked upon it as a very fitting arrangement. She had, 
as before said, much reverence for Lettice, while Reginald 
was the only young gentleman that she had knowledge 

164 False Cards. 

of whom she deemed at all worthy to aspire to Misa 
Cheslett's hand. Sarah, putting her own construction on 
the note, and this grumbling commentary, came to the 
conclusion that Grandpapa " Cheslett had demanded Mr. 
Holbourne's intentions, " which it's getting time they 
was spoke out and acknowledged publicly," observed 
that damsel to herself in conclusion. Sarah was more 
cognizant of how Lettice was committing herself with 
Reginald Holbourne than either Mr. Cheslett or his 

Crushing the offending note in his hands, Reginald 
made his way rapidly towards the Regent's Park, and 
was not long before he descried the pair he sought seated 
on a bench, in the straight double avenue that leads up 
to the territory of the wild beasts. Lettice greeted him with 
a blush, and a somewhat anxious look, as he saluted them. 

" Shall we go into the gardens, Mr. Cheslett," asked 
Reginald, "and have a look at the hippopotami and 
monkeys ? " 

The old man's face brightened. 

" Yes," he replied. " I rather like watching the 
animals ; they amuse me. And when you come to my 
time of life, Mr. Holbourne, you will find that there is 
not much that does. Sign, perchance, I draw toward my 
dotage. ' Thou'dst shun a bear,' but I love to see him 
climb his rugged pole, court popularity, and beg for buns. 
It reminds me of what I once was." 

Reginald rather anxiously waited for further disclo- 
sures on Mr. Cheslett's part. He was extremely curious 
concerning the old gentleman's antecedents; but Mr. 
Cheslett vouchsafed no further remark. 

" You are not angry with me ? " whispered Lettice. 

" No, child, why should I be ? Disappointment though 
it is not to have you all to myself to-day." 

" Ah ! that's good of you," returned the girl, in a low 
voice, as she slipped her little hand through his arm. 
" I was so afraid you might think it my fault." 

They wandered down the Zoological Gardens. Mr. 
Cheslett stopped in solemn contemplation of the Polar 
bear, and let fall a remark that strengthened Reginald's 
"Vispicion as to his original calling. 

Ordered Abroad. 165 

" Queer brute ! " he muttered. " He's like a third-rate 
tragedian. He never stops ' taking the stage. ' " 

To the uninitiated I may remark, that this means 
crossing it from right to left, or vice versd, in front of the 
other performers thereon. 

" Lettice, my own," said Reginald, as, leaving the old 
gentleman to study the white bear and the hyaenas, they 
strolled a little apart from him, " I have a bit of dis- 
agreeable intelligence to break to you." 

She said nothing, but he felt the clasp upon his arm 

tighter as the big black eyes looked anxiously up at him. 

" I have to go away and leave you for a little while. 

The firm want to send a confidential agent to Frankfort, 

and they have selected me." 

"Oh, Reginald!" she murmured, "it won't be for 
long, will it ? " 

" No. I should fancy not above a month at the out- 
side. It's very disgusting, that just as I have acquired a 
right to call you my own, I should have to leave you." 

" And you don't think a month long ! " exclaimed the 
girl. " Are you sure you love me ? " And she stopped 
and peered curiously into his face. " No, don't speak," 
she continued, " I have my answer, and know you do ; 
but they will be weary weeks, Reginald, all the same." 

" Yes, pet, for me at all events. But, Lettice, I must 
not refuse. It is a high compliment the being selected 
for this business, and will probably lead to further ad- 
vancement. I must consider how I am to earn bread 
and cheese for my little wife that is to be, remember." 

She " blinkit sae sweet in his face," as Joanna Baillie's 
grand old song says, and then whispered, " I forgot that. 
But you will write to your little wife, won't you ? " 

" Yes, pelt her with letters till she hates the sight of 
my handwriting." 

" Ah, that will take some time," replied Lettice, 
smiling ; " but as long as I hear from you now and then, 
and may send you sheets of my own foolish scribble, it 
will not be so bad." 

" Sheets of your inditing, child, I shall look forward 
to. I wonder whether you will weary of mine ? They 
may, perchance, prove the more voluminous of the two." 

1 66 

False Cards. 

" As if that were likely ! You will be busy, occupied 
with fifty things ; while I shall have nothing left me 
but to wait, write, and it may be weep." 

" You foolish Lettice, what should you have to weep 
about ? " 

" Nothing, except that I cry when I am sad, and that 
is like enough to happen when you leave me," she re- 
plied, with a faint smile. 

But here Mr. Cheslett rejoined them, and suggested 
that it was getting time to wend their way back to 
Baker Street ; and as the old gentleman waxed some- 
what garrulous on the road, Lettice achieved no further 
tc.te-a-Ute with her lover. 



I1ND he left no card, Polly ? " inquired Jim 

" No," replied Miss Meggott ; " he left 
nothing but a flavour of unparalleled im- 
pudence behind him, and, thanks to the training I've 
had, I should be a judge of that article, at all events." 

" Oh, mine Araminta of the ebon hair ! " ejaculated 
Collingham. " Oh, for a tithe of this vagrant's inso- 
lence, that I might warble my love to thee ! 

' Say, dearest, say, while the moments are flying, 
While I sing my sweetest — like swans that are dying. 
Say, love, oh, say, what exactly escapes me ; ' 

" I don't know precisely what, but it's something or 
other makes me." 

" You be quiet, Mr. Collingham," replied Miss Meg- 
gott, with a humorous twinkle of her eyes, u or you'll 
find yourself cast for damages before long." 

"Never mind, Polly, I should report the case myself; 
and we'd write some good comic love-letters here, 
wouldn't we ? — and have a rattling leader on the trial 
afterwards. Not a bad idea, O Queen of the Ever-so- 
many Islands." 

" So he was dissatisfied with his mutton chop, was 
he ?" asked Donaldson. 

" Dissatisfied ! " rejoined Polly, tossing her head. 

1 68 False Cards. 

" He had the impertinence to ask whether it came from 
the boot-maker's, and was cooked by the young gentle- 
man who attended to the blacking department. It 
wasn't a very good chop, maybe, but he took us aback. 
I ran out and did the best I could, but I had to take 
what I could get at the nearest butcher's ; and mother 
made the best she was able of a bad fire. I don't think 
it was a success," continued Polly, " but it was pretty 
cool of him letting out in the way he did. When I got 
him the sherry " 

" Ah ! " exclaimed Donaldson. 

" He asked if that was what you drank yourselves, so 
I told him Yes. ' Got from the nearest public-house, I 
should think, and laid in by the bottle,' he remarked, 
after tasting it. ' Perhaps, as I happen to have a wife 
dependent upon me, you'd run out and get me a pint of 
the more humble but less deleterious half-and-half.' " 

" Well, and what happened next ? " inquired Col- 

" Why, he took one of your cigars, lit it, and, after a 
few whiffs, said, ' I cant't wait any longer. Tell your 
master he's a fool to go on smoking this rubbish at six 
and thirty shillings a pound — that he had better smoke 
less and pay rather more. It will improve both his 
health and his comedies.' I ventured to suggest that 
you were pretty well, and that the comedies drew pretty 
fair houses, as it was." 

" And what did he say to that ? " asked Donaldson. 

" Well, he smiled grimly, and replied that there was 
nothing like giving free vent to your sentiments, and 
that, as those were mine, I had better blazon them on two 
boards, get between them, and perambulate the Strand." 

A burst of laughter from her auditors here inter- 
rupted Polly. 

" Yes, you may well grin," said Miss Meggott, a little 
tartly ; then, suddenly she broke out into a peal of 
laughter herself. "Drat his impudence!" she ex- 
claimed, at last ; " think of his coolly recommending me 
to turn ' sandwich ! ' " 

" And he left no name ? — no indication whereby to 
identify him " asked Donaldson 

Among the Friars. i6cj 

" No more than this. Although I was boiling over 
with wrath, I did keep my temper sufficiently to ask 
again what name I should say. ' Oh, tell Donaldson,' 
he said, ' the friend who got him out of a scrape by 
paying for his ticket from Croydon some two months 
ago, called to see him.' " 

" Lightfoot, by the immortals ! " exclaimed Jim. 
" But what induced you to give him lunch, Polly?" 

" Well, he said you had asked him — that he knew 
no place about here to get anything to eat at, and 
that he was pressed for time. Truth it is," observed 
Miss Meggott, " I've played landlady to some of your 
friends before upon little better grounds." 

" Doubtless ! However, upon this occasion, Polly, 
my adored, you've been done brown as mushrooms. 
The gentleman who was so critical upon our resources, 
is of a kind who lives upon his fellow-creatures. He 
certainly does know me, but you needn't entertain him 

Miss Meggott's eyes sparkled as she replied — — 

" I should like him to call just once more." 

« Why ? » 

" That I might give him in charge for obtaining a 
mutton-chop under false pretences — and I'd do it, 
never fear." And Polly shook her head defiantly, as 
much as to say, " Who shall say me nay ? " 

Although Polly used much freedom in her converse 
with her masters, yet she was always extremely re- 
spectful to her master's guests. She was a young woman 
of great tact, and took a most sincere interest in the 
well-doing of both Donaldson and Collingham. She 
was almost as excited about their failures or successes as 
they could be themselves, and, whatsoever she might 
say on the subject, believed most implicitly that they 
were young men of extraordinary talents. Angry as she 
had been at the disparaging remarks of Mr. Lightfoot 
on their housekeeping, and flippant as she usually was 
with her tongue, still Miss Meggott had contrived to 
curb that unruly member on the occasion of the adven- 
turer's visit, under the impression that he really was a 
friend of Jim Donaldson's. It had been a supreme effort, 

I7« Fake Cards. 

and taxed Polly's patience to the utmost. Her wrath at 
finding that she had been tricked by a — shall we say, 
mildly, citizen of the world ? — was naturally propor- 

" Well," she exclaimed at last, " it seems Polly Meg- 
gott, who thought she knew London a little, wants a 
nurse about with her yet. Advertise, Mr. Donaldson, to- 
morrow for a companion to a lady of weak intellect ; I've 
nothing to say against it. We must get somebody in to 
look after the three of us. But if ever I come across that 
Lightfoot again, if he don't get chops from the boot- 
maker's my name's not Polly Meggott ! " 

" Araminta, queen of my soul, and goddess of the grid- 
iron ! " cried Collingham, " dry your tears, and remember 
that ' men are deceivers ever.' He might have stolen 
your heart, under pretext of merely wanting a chop. 'Tis 
well it's no worse." 

"My heart, like newly-killed meat, takes a deal of 
cooking," replied Polly, laughing. " After the attacks 
that have been made upon it of late, there's not a pulsa- 
tion left in it. Bless you ! I can't marry you both, and 
could never make up my mind between you. I shall go 
and rehearse ' Dulcibella the Deceived ' in the ashes of 
the back kitchen." And with a pleasant wink Miss Meg- 
gott left the room. 

It was late in the evening when Collingham dropped 
in at " The Friars." There was a somewhat full meeting 
upon this occasion, and Mr. Blunderstone, who did " the 
mangling business " for the Morning Misanthrope, was 
laying down the law after his usual arbitrary fashion. A 
little, wizened old man, who looked as if he had been 
suckled upon nitric acid, and come into the world with a 
liver complaint, Mr. Blunderstone had essayed literature 
in various forms ; he had written plays, which managers 
had rejected; he had given birth to novels, which pub- 
lishers had declined ; he had penned essays, which still 
remained in the privacy of his desk. As he had so far 
failed to construct, it was obvious that his mission was to 
pull down ; so Mr. Blunderstone betook himself to re- 
viewing, and Mr. Blunderstone had of late acquired some 
reputation for the pungency of his pen. 

Among thf Friars. 1 7 1 

But Mr. Blunderstone, alas ! as is sometimes the case 
with those who achieve notoriety, had a little lost his 
head in consequence of his success, and had latterly 
thought fit to set himself up as an authority on art and 
literature amongst the Friars. It was a dangerous weak- 
ness to give rein to. The brotherhood were cynical and 
unsparing of tongue as a rule. If you had made mistake 
with pen, brush, or pencil, you might rest assured that it 
had not escaped the ken of the wandering community. 
And yet Mr. Blunderstone, in his new-blown effulgence, 
had the rashness to think that the failures of his youth 
were beyond the memories of the brethren. 

Woes me ! but before that condonement of our indis- 
cretions is arrived at, we must bury our co-mates and 
attain that approach to reckoning our years at a hun- 
dred, that must be saddest of doom meted out to man in 
this world. We all cling to life, but it must be fraught 
with melancholy to those who stand isolated ruins, while 
the grass grows green over all those who once laughed 
and wept with them. " Those whom the gods love die 
young," said the ancients. Can the converse thereof be 
equally true, that those whom they contemn, they leave 
to moulder here on earth in their decrepitude ? 

The Friars were immensely amused at, to speak figu- 
ratively, the new aspirant to Doctor Johnson's chair. 
The novices of the order especially delighted in drawing 
out the great Blunderstone upon all occasions, deferred 
to his opinion in manner positively sycophantic, and 
meekly murmured their new litany of " Be merciful in 
thy strength, O Blunderstone, lest no one dare put pen 
to paper in the land." 

" While many a wicked smile they smole, 
And many a wink they wunk." 

Mr. Blunderstone, carried away by the immunity that 
he has so far experienced, is at present tearing to tatters, 
in high piping querulous tones, Donaldson's last comedy. 
" Deficient in plot, weak in dialogue, it cannot much 
longer impose upon the credulity of a London audience," 
he wound up with, as his voice reached well-ni^h to a 

172 False Cards. 

" Awfully jolly sad for you, when it goes out of the 
bills," observed Charlie quietly, as he lit a cigar. 

" Why ?" inquired Mr. Blunderstone sharply. Had he 
noticed the presence of Donaldson's most intimate friend, 
he would have been rather more guarded in his language. 

" Because his next piece is to succeed that, and he's got 
you in it. You're rather well done, Blunderstone. Jim 
took a good deal of pains to hit you off correctly. As he 
said, you're a man of mark now, and the public ought to 
be introduced to you." 

" The man, sir, who would make literary capital of his 
associates, deserves the execration of the civilised world," 
retorted Blunderstone. 

" Just what Jim said when he read that personal attack 
in the Mohawk" rejoined Charlie phlegmatically, with 
the quiet addendum that he'd try to promote that laud- 
able sentiment. 

" And who presumed to insinuate that I wrote that ?" 

" Bless you, I don't know. I always said it was too 
clever to be of your penning, but Jim thinks otherwise, 
and declares that such insolence and invective could have 
been written by no one else." 

" Mr. Donaldson will do well to think twice before he 
provokes the enmity of the press," piped Blunderstone. 
" He'd better bear in mind that those who made him can 
unmake him." 

" Quite agree with you," retorted his tormentor; "but 
there's no arguing with Jim, he only laughs and says 
you are not the press by a good many chalks, and that 
nobody pays much attention to your criticism." 

" He shall see, sir — he shall see ! " spluttered the re- 

" Reckon, Blunderstone, you've slipped the whip-cord 
into the wrong nigger," remarked Mr. Slymme, with a 
broad grin. " You'd better hold on to crucifying the 
small fry, who can't yelp back. It makes things unplea- 
sant when they don't lie down to the lash, don't it ? " 

" Hush, Slymme, don't talk blasphemy," interrupted 
Fred Nightingale, of the comic papers, and light litera- 
ture generally. " When the gods inspired Blunderstone 
to give up afflicting the managers with incomprehensible 

Among the Friars. 173 

pieces, they bestowed upon him the gift of judging of 
other people's works. Like Diogenes, he passes his life 
in seeking for something that he may praise. Like the 
Greek cynic, he fails in his search." 

The bantered reviewer bestowed a malignant glance 
upon the speaker, as he exclaimed, in the half-scream 
that became natural to him when excited, 

" I deny the article in the Mohawk" 

11 Daresay Jim will deny that Dr. Grindstone is meant 
for you in his new piece," observed Charlie, meditatively ; 
" but self-denial is one of the virtues, we all know." 

" What's the use of riling up, Blunderstone ? — if you 
splash the mud about, it's likely some will come your 
own way. You don't suppose you've got a monopoly of 
the cow-hide, do you ? " remarked Mr. Slymme. " Guess 
you'd better take a hint from our citizens. When anyone 
gives you fits, just look reound and see who's handiest to 
pass it on tew. Pay out the stripes, and make 'em sharp 
in the same proportion that you were hurt." 

" I am not in the habit of riling up, as you call it," 
returned Mr. Blunderstone, with a countenance highly 
contradictory of that statement, " and have the honour 
to wish you good night." 

" Quite right, sir — quite right," retorted the unabashed 
American. " Take it out of some one before you sleep. 
If you let off about a couple of columns of bile before you 
turn in, you'll wake crisp and chipper to-morrow." 

Mr. Blunderstone vouchsafed no response, but left 
the room enveloped in the shreds of his outraged 

" He'd have made a tall slave-owner," observed Mr. 
Slymme, musingly. " He'd have seen justice dealt out 
on a plantation, he would ! He'd have been the boy to 
mind the niggers didn't get fat and sassy ! He's born to 
ride over people as have had their teeth drawn and their 
claws filed, but he'd cut up skeary down West." 

" I suppose that's all a flam about Dr. Grindstone ? " 
observed Fred Nightingale. 

" Yes • I only wanted to take old Blunderstone down 
a peg or two. He's an arrant bully, and was running 
riot with regard to Donaldson s comedy. I knew if I 


174 False Cards. 

suggested Jim might retaliate, he would speedily subside. 
What's the best news with you ? " 

" None to tell, Charlie. ' A day of doleful dumps ' it's 
been with me. Stay ! I picked up a good thing for the 
paper this morning — make a neat sketch, I think. I was 
passing down Duke Street, St. James's, when, on the 
opposite side of the way, I espied a chimney-sweep 
clothed in all his sooty panoply. A hansom cabman, 
wearing a white hat, and driving a horse pale as that of 
Death in the Revelation, was walking his vehicle up the 
street. His eye twinkled as he saw the chummy, and, 
touching his hat, he cried out, ' Cab, sir ? ' The chimney- 
sweep stopped, regarded him critically for a second or 
two, and then replied — ' Werry neat turn out, from the 
top of yer tile to the 'oofs of yer 'oos, but — ' and here he 
paused — 'yer the wrong colour /'" 

" Smart ! " said Mr. Slymme. " That flue-scourer 
could run alone, bet your pile." 

"Well, it's time to be off," said Charlie. "Good 
night." And, nodding to Slymme and Nightingale 
Mr. Collingham betook himself homeward. 



R. HOLBOURNE carries his head higher, and 
flourishes the gold eye-glass more ostentatiously 
than ever. An accession of importance accrues 
to him from the fact that he has declined the 
honour of an alliance with a Collingham of Churton, and 
that Collingham, moreover, the heir to the estate and 
title. He expands under the genial influence, and be- 
comes more benevolent and patronising of manner to 
Aldringham than before, if that be possible. True, he 
reflects ruefully that it is not etiquette to blazon such 
rejections to the world, and that if Grace had but been 
a sensible girl, he might have been openly exulting over 
the forthcoming connection instead of having to swell 
silently with pride that his daughter had gainsaid the 
young heir of Churton. But Aldringham is keen of nose, 
quick of ear, and avid of tongue when scandal or gossip 
is afoot, and the banker soon finds much solace to his 
vanity in parrying the attacks, congratulations, or inter- 
rogatives that are showered upon him. Aldringham had 
little doubt that Mr. Collingham's love had arrived at 
that stage when men demand decisive answer to their 

Aldringham was anxious to hear its acuteness con- 
firmed from Mr. Holbourne's own lips. From the depre- 
catory disavowals, the tattling little town had no diffi- 

176 False Cards. 

culry in assuring itself that the young squire had wooed 
her in vain. But which of the ladies was it that had said 
him nay ? Marion, already sore-wounded in her vanity, 
was destined to have that gall kept alive for some 
time, thanks to the keen cross-examination of her dear 
friends. Harder still to brook for one of her tempera- 
ment, when, in answer to such keen questioning, she 
was fain to admit that Mr. Collingham had never solicited 
her hand, were such remarks as, " Good gracious ! Miss 
Langworthy, and we all deemed you the object of attrac- 
tion ; but there's no accounting for men." 

In the family circle, Marion maintained her usually 
suave demeanour, and albeit she felt an almost uncon- 
trollable desire to bite her " dear Grace " at times 
instead of kissing her, she allowed no sign of this to be 
manifest in her conduct towards her cousin. Indeed, at 
this time she made her uncle and Grace exceedingly un- 
comfortable from the ostentatious deference with which 
she consulted their approval upon all household arrange- 

" Pooh, nonsense — of course, child ! Why do you 
pester me about it ? " would the banker reply, uneasily, 
upon being appealed to on some minor point of domestic 
polity, which Miss Langworthy had been wont to decide 

" It is different now, uncle, that Grace has grown up. 
I am bound to think of how she may regard such things," 
would be Marion's soft rejoinder. "It is not your ap- 
proval only I have now to look to." 

Mr. Holbourne pished and pshawed, but became dimly 
conscious that his establishment was not working so 
smoothly as heretofore ; while slowly was incubated the 
idea that it was his daughter's jealous temperament and 
petty desire to hold the reins of government that were the 
cause of all this unpleasantness. Gradually, too, Marion 
insinuated into his mind a sense of injury inflicted upon 
him by Grace's refusal of Robert Collingham's suit. She 
painted in glowing colours the accession of dignity and 
importance that would have attached itself to him as 
father-in-law to the heir of Churton, until slowly the banker 
began to regard his bonny Grace as a very Regan or Gonerii 

Retaliation. 177 

Grace, meanwnile, opened wide her brown eyes at her 
cousin's new-born meekness. With unfeigned surprise 
she listened to Marion's constant appeals as to whether 
this, that, and the other would suit her convenience. 
With regard to the carriage, Miss Langworthy waxed 
perfectly apologetic, although she used it quite as much 
as formerly for her own purposes ; but she made much 
parade now of " If dear Grace was quite certain she would 
not want it," before she ordered it. 

If Marion showed no outward sign, inwardly she was 
consumed with rage. All the malice of her nature — no 
inconsiderable quantity — had been aroused by her failure 
to win Robert Collingham, and she chose to regard 
Grace as the cause of that disappointment. She furiously 
resented, too, Reginald's defalcation, and, interpreting 
Mr. Lightfoot's epistle by her own lights, she at once put 
down Lettice as his chere amie. She vowed vengeance 
on both brother and sister. As regarded her offending 
lover, she saw her way, but as to wreaking her spite upon 
Grace she was not as yet quite so clear. Still Miss 
Langworthy thought of late she had detected undue 
signs of interest in her cousin when Charlie Collingham's 
name was mentioned. She was not certain ; but only let 
her find such a point of weakness in Grace's armour, and 
she should know where to strike. Then Marion reflected 
about Charlie Collingham's appearance at the ball, her 
cousin's admission that she had known him the season 
before in London : and the more she thought over it', the 
more convinced became Miss Langworthy that there were 
love-passages between Grace and that discarded son of 
Sir John's. 

This idea once installed in Marion's brain, she prose- 
cuted her search for corrobation thereof with all the 
subtleness and energy of a skilled detective. She was 
down by times of a morning to scrutinize her cousin's 
correspondence, and was rewarded by the occasional 
advent of a letter in masculine hand, bearing the London 
postmark. Still she was a stranger to Charlie's hand- 
writing, and, whatever she might think, she required 
proof positive on this subject. She determined to con- 
sult the astute Lightfoot in the matter. 

178 False Cards. 

It may be remembered that the last chapter contained 
the record of an eccentric raid made by that distinguished 
personage on the small house at Brompton — object ap- 
parently no other than a mutton-chop. Mr. Lightfoot's 
real business was to procure a specimen of Charlie 
Collingham's handwriting. His disparaging remarks on 
his entertainment were all matters of calculation, and 
when, pronouncing the sherry undrinkable, he requested 
Miss Meggott to fetch him a pint of half-and-half, he 
thereby secured a few minutes to himself in the apart- 
ment. Both desks were strewed with manuscript — 
notes of articles, ideas for scenes, &c, lay scattered about, 
and to a man of Lightfoot's experience it took little time 
to select an unimportant scrap of handwriting from each 
desk of the predominant penmanship thereon. He did 
not know which was which, it was true, but his client 
could easily ascertain if either of those would serve her 

These two scraps of paper were duly forwarded to 
Marion, with the remark that one was Mr. Collingham's, 
one Mr. Donaldson's, and that she would be perfectly 
justified in concluding that to be Mr. Collingham's in 
which, on comparison, she found a resemblance to any 
writing she should suspect to be his. Miss Langworthy 
had no longer any doubt as to who was her cousin's 
London correspondent. 

Simultaneously with this acquired knowledge on 
Marion's part arose once more the rumour in Aldringham 
that the cause of quarrel between Sir John and his son 
had been the disgraceful marriage of the latter; that 
Charlie was wedded to a lady of fame beyond suspicion, 
in the most malignant sense of the phrase. Who she 
was, gossip as yet forbore to state, but the story trickled 
from house to house, and gathered strength as it 

It was not long before the scandal reached Grace's ear, 
and the girl's face flushed, and she bit her lips as she 
mutely confronted it. She scorned to give credence to 
such vulgar report. Was not Charlie her own betrothed, 
and did she not trust him thoroughly ? But for all that, 
Grace could not forget that hsxjiance had owned to her 

Retaliation. 179 

that there was a Blue Beard's chamber in his past life, 
and that it was connected with his rupture with his 
father. Grace bore herself gallantly, and she had need, 
for though she knew it not, she was undergoing vivi- 
section at the hands of a clever woman who hated her. 

Day by day Marion watched her cousin wince under 
the last garbled version of the popular rumour that she 
detailed to her, in pursuance of her own schemes of 
vengeance. Day by day she smiled softly as she perceived 
that the rift between the banker and his daughter was 
surely though imperceptibly widening. Miss Lang- 
worthy's exceeding deference to Grace or her uncle's 
wishes at this time covered them both with confusion, 
and yet it invariably seemed that what she did to pleasure 
the one, produced corresponding discomfort to the other. 
This, of course, told most upon Mr. Holbourne, whose 
pet comforts and hobbies were apparently always set 
aside for the gratification of his daughter. 

The banker fidgeted and got irritable under these 
circumstances. Pompous and grandiloquent he had 
ever been to his family, but a more kind and indulgent 
father it would have been hard to come across. Now, 
Mr. Holbourne began mentally to credit his daughter 
with much selfishness of disposition. He leant more and 
more upon Marion, and deemed her failures in the 
furtherance of his comforts were due solely to Grace's 

Grace was not altogether blind to all this — she saw 
clearly that there was an adverse influence dominating 
over her home, that nothing she could do seemed now 
right in her father's eyes. Her woman's tact told her 
but too assuredly that Marion was at the bottom of all 
this mischief; but indignant as she was at the miscon- 
struction put upon her every word and action, she felt 
that she was powerless to stem the tide. She was 
struggling, poor girl, against the machinations of a clever, 
unscrupulous woman, who had divined her secret, and 
who indirectly at times gave her reason to suppose so. It 
was as difficult to lay hold of anything tangible regarding 
Marion as to handle an eel. She slipped through the 
fingers, to speak metaphorically, much after the manner 

iflo False Cards. 

of that astute semi-reptile, and often as Grace had vowed 
to ascertain from her lips whether she did know of her 
engagement to Charlie Collingham, yet Marion had 
always cleverly evaded such questioning. 

Grace grows very sad under all this — her letters to her 

over bear a tinge of melancholy, and she cannot refrain 

from alluding to the Aldringham rumour. She takes 

out his letter received that morning, and runs over it for 

Jie sixth or seventh time. 

" Can't you trust me yet a little, darling ? " it ran. 

Believe me, I can most effectually silence all those 
Aldringham idiots when the time comes. That I have 
"easons strong for still keeping the key of my one secret 
chamber, is it not palpable ? Or else, Grace, would you 
lot have been possessed of it long since ? You cannot 
doubt me — if you do, you must have ceased to love me. 
I have but this one reservation from you. I ask you to 
bear with it but a little longer, and promise that you 
shall know the whole front of my offending before I 
claim the biggest prize this world can offer me — yourself. 
Will not that suffice ? You'd scarce wish to humiliate 
me, but bitter scorn might prove my father's benediction 
on our bridal now ; curt rejection be probably your 
father's answer, if I asked him for you as things are at 
present. Trust me, Grace, a few months more, and no 
one but yourself shall gainsay me your hand. Ever your 
own "Charlie Collingham." 

This might have been denominated " the nagging 
period " of Grace's life. To be nagged at by one's fellow- 
creatures is well-nigh the supreme torture of civilized 
life ; but to be nagged at by circumstances also is to reach 
the nethermost helh When you can do nothing right, 
say nothing right, think nothing right, or even, God help 
you, dream nothing right, one is apt to wonder why 
men hold this a fair world, and are loth to leave it. But 
so it is. The ills we know seem better to face than an 
unknown future. When an artiste of Miss Langworthy's 
calibre pulls the domestic strings of your establishment, 
and feels herself aggrieved in any shape, it is extra- 
ordinary the discord that becomes prevalent through the 
household. But when she holds a member thereof guilty 

Retaliation. 181 

of dire offending, it is incredible how circumstances 
appear to mete out punishment to the delinquent. 
When the culprit happens to be a daughter (therefore 
tied to the stake), who has refused an eligible offer, the 
denizens of Pompeii, at the time of the eruption of the 
burning mountain, were comparatively in easy circum- 
stances. Their troubles were soon over, but your domestic 
volcano will vomit smoke and trickle lava for many a 
month to come. Though the smoke may not choke, 
nor the lava kill, they leave much singing in the head 
and blistering of the mind behind them. I know two or 
three moral volcanoes that are always in full blast. I 
shirk them cleverly, for the most part ; but there are 
times when escape proves impossible, and I sit and suffer 
while the hot ashes permeate my shirt, trickle into my 
boots, and scorch me into recognition of my manifold 

The only happy days Grace had at this time were 
those which, having escaped to Churton, she passed with 
Sylla Collingham. The blind girl had got over that 
temporary pang of jealousy with which she had been 
first stricken, upon learning that she was no longer to 
hold first place in the heart of that dearly-loved brother 
of hers, and now welcomed Grace most cordially as a sister. 

Miss Holbourne had driven over to Churton one 
blazing Summer day, to bid Sylla good-bye, her father 
having resolved to transport himself and his belongings 
to London for three weeks or so — the usual country 
cousins' holiday. Miss Collingham is at home, and she 
is not — that is to say, she is somewhere in the grounds. 
Will Miss Holbourne sit down while Thomas goes to 
find her ? asks the portly butler. No', Miss Holbourne 
will conduct the search herself ; and having ordered the 
horses to be put up, Grace stepped into the garden. 
Two or three turns told her that Sylla was not there. 
She scans the Park narrowly, but fails to catch sight of 
skirt or petticoat that might betoken Miss Collingham ; 
and then Grace determines to walk up to The Hazels. As 
she ascends the little knoll, Dandy makes his appearance 
upon the summit, gives her a rough bark of welcome, 
and then bounds down to meet her. 

i*$2 False Cards. 

" Ha, Dandy, man, I thought I should find you and 
your mistress here ! " cried Grace, as she caressed the 
collie. " Run on, boy, and tell her who it is that's 

The dog jumped round her for a minute or so, and 
then sped like an arrow on his mission. As Grace gained 
the crest of the eminence, she saw Sylla seated on the 
turf, her head thrown slightly forward to catch the 
coming step of her visitor. 

" It is you, Grade, is it not ? " she asked. 

" Yes," replied Miss Holbourne, as she bent over her 
and kissed her. " Come to bid you farewell for a little, 
and to pour some of my troubles into your ear as I do 

" Farewell ! — troubles ! — what do you mean ? " 

" Nothing to frighten you, Sylla," replied Grace, as 
she seated herself. " First, papa is going to take us to 
London ; secondly, I am very unhappy." 

" Going to London and unhappy, Grade ! Why, you 
will see Charlie ! " 

" Good heavens, Sylla ! don't I tell you I am going 
with papa, and not to stay with my aunt ? " 

" It don't much matter," returned Miss Collingham, 
smiling, " whom you are with in London ! you will see 
Charlie all the same, unless you have kept him in igno- 
rance of the fact." 

" No, I think he knows all about it," replied Grace, in 
a low voice. 

"I can't perceive your troubles so far, my dear." 

" No, and I can hardly make you comprehend them. 
How shall I make you understand that I have an uncom- 
fortable home ? The daughter of the well-to-do banker, 
with everything she can ask for, should be happy ; and 
yet, Sylla, I could cry my eyes out with vexation six 
days out of seven." 

" Grade, I don't understand you." 

" No, and I don't know how to explain matters. Can 
you imagine everything you do, everything you say, 
misconstrued — your slightest word distorted to your dis- 
advantage — your very looks misinterpreted ? Can you 
picture the admission you have a headache made ground 

Retaliation. 183 

for putting the house into mourning ? Can you fancy 
my father's whims systematically interfered with, on the 
plea that they annoy ' dear Grace,' who would cut her 
little finger off sooner than object to them ? I," con- 
tinued the girl, passionately, " who never knew what it 
was to have a cross word from my father, am now the 
target for what bitter remarks he may have in him ! " 

" But how comes all this, Gracie ? Who can have 
come between you and your father ? " 

" Marion, of course. I am helpless, I could not allege 
a single thing against her ; but I feel nevertheless that 
'tis she makes all this mischief. She used to snub me, 
bully me, and laugh when I rose in rebellion. At present 
she affects to consult me in everything, she yields to me 
in everything, and I never had less my own way than 
now. She garbles my own speeches, till I doubt 
whether I can express myself clearly on any point." 

" But surely if you pointed out frankly to your father 
that your wishes or observations had been misunder- 
stood " 

"You don't know Marion," interrupted Grace; "I 
can't fathom her myself, and Regi, poor boy, although 
he's engaged to her, knows her still less ; as for my 
father, she can twist him round her little finger, and 
make him believe anything she chooses in the course of 
a few days." 

" I don't know how to advise you, Gracie. If I could 
but see for myself," said Miss Collingham mournfully. 

" Hush, Sylla dearest," whispered Grace, as she passed 
her arm round her friend. " I feel ashamed of myself 
when I think of what my trials are when compared with 
your affliction ; and do not I hope that some day soon 
Charlie will take me away from them all ? But the 
Aldringham people worry me cruelly about him. They 
have revived the old story of his marriage, and though I 
know it false, the rumour frets me horribly all the 

" Gracie, child, my brother's all too good for you. 
Can't you trust him ? " 

" Yes, and I do implicitly ; but, Sylla, when your 
whole world seems out of gear, it comes hard to have it 

184 False Cards. 

constantly impressed upon you that your lover is married 

A faint smile flickered over Sylla' s face as she replied, 

" O Fatima, don't hope to gloss over your curiosity, 
you are wild to have possession of the key of my Blue 
Beard brother's closet. You had better have taken 
Robert, about whom no mystery exists." 

" If you ever say that again, I will never set foot in 
Churton more ! " replied Grace sharply. 

" Don't be angry, sister mia, but let's go home and 
have some tea. Oh, you fo 'give then, you hot-tempered 
Gracie," said Sylla, as her companion drew her arm 
within her own. " I half thought I should have to trust 
to Dandy to take me back. Where are you, my dog ? 
You believed in your master, didn't you ? " she continued, 
as Dandy thrust his black muzzle into her hand. " Tell 
her, Dandy, it's a crying shame to doubt him, and that 
you and I say so." 

" I don't Sylla, I don't — you know it ; but to be con- 
stantly told that your affianced lover is already married, 
does grate upon the ear all the same." 

Faith is a great virtue, and heaven help man or woman 
who, despite the decay of youth's bright illusions, does 
not succeed in keeping some modicum of belief in his 
fellow-creatures, to travel through the world with. But, 
as Miss Holbourne remarks, to be continually told that 
your plighted love is already married, is a strain on such 
faith scarce warranted in these times. 



NLY four days since that walk in the Zoological 
Gardens, and Lettice is busy at early morning 
making coffee for her departing lover. She 
had made him promise over night that he 
would run in, wish her good-bye, and take the grace cup 
and god-speed from her own fair hands. She feels 
rather sad at parting with him, but it is not for long. 
She knows it is for his own good— indeed, he insists 
upon it for hers — and then he has promised to write. 
There is magical consolation to the girl in that last fact. 
Lettice has never known what it is to receive letters of 
any kind, and now she is about to entertain love-letters. 
She may well dream of sunshine even in her lover's 
absence. Does sweeter reading ever meet us than those 
silly, ungrammatical notes that come to us during the 
flood-tide of our first passion ? The balcony scene in 
" Romeo and Juliet " is as thrilling love poetry as ever 
was written, but it will never stir the pulses as did those 
foolish little notes that reached us from our heart's first 

She flits about the room, a little nervous and anxious, 
She pushes back the dark masses of hair from her 
temples, and once more raises the lid of the coffee-pot. 
She looks pale this morning: as when she sits up all 
night to broider a cigar case for her lover will be the lot 

1*6 False Cards. 

of maiden ; and Lettice could not let him go without 
something to remind him of her. Ever and anon she 
glances at the third finger of her left hand, on which 
sparkles a handsome emerald, a recent and dazzling 
addition to Miss Cheslett's most modest stock of jewelry. 
The cab is at the door, and Sarah comes tumbling down 
the stairs with the traveller's baggage. A sharp tap at 
the door, and Reginald enters. 

" Quick with my coffee, pet, for I have but a few 
minutes to spare." 

" It is all ready," replied the girl, as she lifted it from 
the fender and commenced to pour it out. 

" Halloa ! what's this ?" he exclaimed, as he raised the 
cigar-case from the table. " Is this for me ? " 

" Yes, Reginald. I sat up all night to get it finished. 
I did so want you to have something to remind you of 
me while you should be away." 

He turned the case over in his fingers. It was of 
velvet ; on the one side was embroidered his initials ; on 
the other, in gold, Lettice. 

"You think I want something to remind me of you," 
he said at length, and as he spoke he tumbled over her 
work-basket carelessly. " Good ! Come here." He 
took her in his arms and kissed her, and as he did so 
there came a slight click, and one of Lettice's ebon 
tresses fell upon the carpet. He picked it up and placed 
it in the cigar-case. " There," he said in a low voice, 
" I shall contrive to recollect you now." 

She smiled up in his face, and said timidly, 

" I might have thought of that, but I did not know 
you would care to have it. You will write often, won't 
you ? It will be so new to me to get letters — so sweet 
to get them from you." 

" Yes, Lettice. And now good-bye, my own ; I must 
linger no longer." 

He clasped her again to his breast, once more their lips 
met in a long, loving kiss, and then Reginald dashed from 
the room, and threw himself into his cab. 

She watched from the open window till the vehicle 
was out of sight, gazed dreamily after it long after it was 
beyond her ken, and then, with a long-drawn breath, 

Death of Grandpapa Chcsfrtt. 187 

Lettice sat down and was lost in a delicious love- 

" How nice it was of him to steal my hair from me," 
she mused ; " and how delightful it will be to get his 
letters ! I never noticed the postman's rap before, but 
now my heart will flutter with every stroke of the 
knocker ! " And then she fell to calculating what was 
the earliest date she might expect to hear from him. 

Reginald, meanwhile, as he sped on his way to Charing 
Cross, was also immersed in reflection. He was honestly 
and deeply in love, and the roseate hues of that leave- 
taking still hovered around him. But mingled with such 
thoughts was a sense of relief that he should escape con- 
fronting his own people in town. A letter from Marion 
had informed him that they would be in London in a few 
days, and situated as he now was, he shrank from the idea 
of meeting Miss Langworthy. After the fashion of men, he 
was glad of an excuse to put off the inevitable explana- 
tion that must take place with her. The procrastina- 
tion of unpleasant subjects is an infirmity of most of us. 
A friend of mine, much given to such treatment of the 
" disagreeables," justifies his conduct in this wise, " Time 
enough to face such things when you needs must. Never 
be in a hurry, for there's no saying what the railways or 
street-crossings may do for you ! " 

Of course I do not mean that speculation as to his 
cousin's death ever for one second crossed Reginald's 
brain; but he did hope vaguely that something might turn 
up to render that explanation more easy than it seemed 
at present. As it was, the more he thought of it the less 
he liked it, to use a homely phrase much in vogue in the 
hunting-field. And even as those who contemplate the 
awkward fence over-long seldom think it practicable, so 
Reginald deemed his " obstacle " the bigger the more he 
dwelt upon it. 

Days slip away. Lettice, I am afraid, dedicates much 
time to voluminous letter-writing, and on the fourth day 
from Reginald's departure a foreign-stamped missive 
arrives for Miss Cheslett. The blood rushes into the 
girl's face as she clutches her treasure. " Odd," she 
murmurs, as she reads the superscription. "I never 

1 88 Fahe Cards. 

thought to tell him my name. I know the people in the 
house always call me Miss Cheslett, and he always called 
me Lettice. It is funny," she continued, laughing, 
" but Reginald doesn't even as yet know his betrothed 
wife's name. Well, I don't think I shall tell him now 
till he comes back. I will keep that as a joke against 

It was not a very long epistle, but Lettice was delighed 
with it, and quite sure that such a love-letter never was 
penned. She read and re-read it, and referred to it at all 
times and seasons, as if it contained a code for her guid- 
ance through life. I know her conduct is preposterous. 
Conceiving such love as this, for a young man with Regi- 
nald's shadowy prospects, is an iniquity that passes belief 
in these times. Still, bear in mind she is but a child, 
and a nobody to boot, and knows naught about the con- 
ventionalities or the ways of those that sit in high places. 
She loves because she cannot help it, and has given no 
more thought about how she and Reginald are to live 
than if she were a young sparrow. The man that could 
pen a wise love-letter would most assuredly be very little 
in love. Reginald's was not particularly remarkable for 
foolishness, and it contained what, after all, is the gist of 
such letters — plenty of good, honest affection and sweet 
words. When they have that within them, I fancy a 
maiden recks little if they want wisdom, and would be 
blind to much want of understanding. Any way, Regi- 
nald's note seemed to satisfy Lettice — she danced about 
the house and chirruped like a bird. Her black eyes 
sparkled, and a smile played ever on her lips, till even 
Sarah, stolidest of housemaids, wondered " whatever had 
come over Miss Lettice." She laughed at her grand- 
father's querulous complaints, till even he gazed in 
amazement at the child, and wrathfully inquired " what 
she saw to be so pleased about ?" And Lettice only 
laughed the merrier, and said there was no law that she 
should not be happy. 

Bright and brisk Lettice emerges from her own little 
nest some few days later, and trips into the sitting-room. 
It is a glorious Summer morning, and the soft air comes 
in through the open window, and kisses her cheek 

Death of Grandpapa Chcslcll. 189 

lovingly. Quite possible, she thinks, that the tardy post- 
man may have something for her when he does come. 
At last that functionary makes his appearance, and he 
has a letter for Miss Cheslett. The girl's eyes flash, and a 
low laugh trills from her lips as she opens her second love- 
letter. She reads it through thrice, and then sits, lost in 
thought, gazing into vacancy, apparently — gazing in 
reality across the bright blue tumbling waters, even unto 
Frankfort and the gardens of Sachsenhausen. Wrapped 
in her reverie, she takes but little heed of time, till the 
chiming of the pendule on the mantlepiece recalls her to 

" Ten o'clock ! " she exclaims, " and no tea made ! I 
shall have grandfather down directly, and then, woe's 
me ! I shall have a lecture on my laziness." And 
Lettice bustled about, rang the bell, and made divers 
preparations for breakfast. 

Mr. Cheslett was an habitually unpunctal man, so his 
granddaughter took but little heed of his non-appearance 
at first. But when the timepiece rang out eleven, Lettice 
thought it behoved her to see after him. She drummed 
accordingly upon his door, which opened into the sitting- 
room, with her fingers, but elicited no response. She 
then called him by name — still no answer came to her 
from within. The girl's heart began to beat, and she 
softly turned the door-handle and looked in. The 
curtains were still drawn, and she could barely distin- 
guish one thing from another, coming as she did out of 
the bright sunshine ; but already a chill ran through her 
veins, and she became dimly conscious that she was alone 
in that room. She rushed across, tore back the curtains, 
and as the light poured into the room, she crept silently 
to the bed-side. Pale, calm, and still, her grandfather's 
face lay turned towards her, and his eyes confronted hers 
with the stern fixity of death. She snatched the hand 
which lay listless on the coverlet, and pressed it to her 
lips, and as the chillness of the dead overcame the warm 
blood of the living, Lettice uttered a faint cry, sank dowft 
by the bedside, and knew that her grandfather's spirit 
had sped. 

She had slight consciousness of how long she remained 

19c False Cards. 

there ; it was in reality but a few minutes, yet to Lettice 
it had seemed a considerable time. She rose from hef 
knees with a glimmering idea that she stood all alone in 
the world, with no soul to advise or assist her, save one, 
and that he was far away. She rang the bell, and with 
streaming eyes bid Sarah run for the doctor — that her 
grandfather was dying. She knew well that he was 
dead, but she still scarce liked to admit that it was so, 
even to herself. She went back into the room, kissed 
the cold, still face once more, and sat down by the bed- 
side till the doctor should come. She thought over her 
young life, recalled to her mind that dead sister who a 
few years back used to come home tired, but radiant with 
delight, from the theatre where she earned her bread, 
and pour forth stories that seemed of Fairyland into her 
childish ears ; then she recollected how that gay, joyous 
lover of the dead girl's had appeared upon the scene — 
what mirth and laughter there would be in the little 
sitting-room of their then habitation when he dropped 
in, and how they had both petted hei ! Then she con- 
jured up their wedding-day, and how Lilian promised 
her that she should come and live with them. Ah ! well, 
she saw little of Lilian after that. And then she thought 
how her brother-in-law had appeared one day clothed in 
deepest mourning, and in a voice choked with sobs had 
announced to her grandfather that Lilian was dead. 
How she cried ! She remembered how her brother-in- 
law took her in his arms, and while the tears stood in 
his own eyes, told her they must hope poor Lilian had 
gone to a happier and better world. How well she recol- 
lected his last words ! " Lettice, child," he whispered, 
" we have lost her — the sunlight is all gone from my 
life, and if I don't work, I shall go mad ; but I am your 
brother, bear in mind, and for my poor wife's sake, let 
alone your own, shall be ever one to you. Write to me 
now and then, little one, and tell me about yourself." 
But her grandfather immediately changed his abode, 
and as she did not know where her brother-in-law lived, 
she had never been able to write to him. Where was he 
now ? she wondered. 

Here the doctor made his appearance. A glance suf 

Dciith of Grandpapa Chesleti. 191 

ficed almost to tell him that the old man was dead — had 
been dead indeed, for some hours. He gently closed 
the staring eyes, and broke the fact to the girl, but she 
answered — 

" I knew it when I sent for you, but was loth to give up 
all hope." 

" You had best come away now," he replied, and 
Lettice suffered him to lead her back to the sitting-room. 

"Sad thing," he said to the landlady, before he took 
his departure. " She seems all alone in the world. You 
ought to get her out of these rooms, if you can, till after 
the funeral. I can certify to death from heart-disease, so 
that I don't think you will be troubled with an inquest." 

" Poor child ! yes," replied the landlady ; " and as luck 
will have it, I've a lodger, a great friend of theirs, who's 
gone abroad for a little; she can have his rooms, and 

So, a little later, the landlady suggested to Lettice that 
she should occupy Reginald's rooms until after the 
funeral. A faint smile flickered on the girl's lips as she 
assented. Yes, she should like that. There was nought 
left her in the world now but his love : It would be 
sweet to live where he had lived, to sleep where he had 
slept, and brood over his letters. To Lettice's romantic 
mind, few suggestions could have, proved more acceptable, 
and that evening saw her installed in Reginald's rooms. 


Marion's commission, 

j BOUT ten days after Reginald Holbourne sped 
on his way to Frankfort, his father, sister, and 
cousin had established themselves in a com- 
fortable first-floor in Sackville Street. None of 
the party, to say the truth, were very conversant in the 
ways of the metropolis. Of course Mr. Holbourne had 
often been there, but never very long at a time. His 
lines had been cast in provincial waters, and he under- 
stood little of the big, seething London cauldron. Miss 
Langworthy, too, had slight experience of town ; and so 
it was, thanks to a six weeks' sojourn with her aunt, Mrs. 
Wilkinson, the previous year, that the ways of the big 
city were more understood by Grace than by either of her 

Marion felt that she had much delicate business to 
transact during her visit. It was necessary, in the first 
place, that she should see her mysterious agent, on 
whom, to her knowledge, she had as yet never set eyes. 
She had an ex v emely confidential mission to entrust to 
him ; and further, Miss Langworthy considered that, as 
he evidently had a perfect knowledge of her appearance, 
it would be as well that she should be able to identify 
him. Marion would have preferred that he should never 
have seen her, but, as he undoubtedly had, it was useless 

Marion's Commission. 193 

o scruple further about an interview. She was well 
satisfied with him so far. True, he demanded large pay- 
ment for his services, but what information she had 
required of him had been obtained promptly. He 
troubled her with no details as to how it was acquired, 
but forwarded it curtly and swiftly, and she had no reason 
to doubt its accuracy. At all events, she meant to test 
some of it during her stay in town. 

Gracie, too, had a little conspiracy of her own ; but, 
as it amounted to no more than persuading her aunt to 
arrange a meeting for herself and Charlie, it can hardly 
be deemed anything but a plot of the most common- 
place description, and yet Gracie puzzled her pretty head 
over it a great deal. You see, she did not quite wish to 
inform Mrs. Wilkinson of her engagement, and yet her 
request was not so easy to urge, unless she did so. What 
thought and scheming these love-affairs cost, to bring 
them to a satisfactory conclusion ! That we have either 
not time or not talent to conduct such purposes to a 
prosperous issue, is the reason, perhaps, that so many of 
us are doomed to remain unwedded. 

Miss Langworthy was, by this time, of course, pos- 
sessed of Mr. Lightfoot's address at Islington ; so, the 
second morning after her arrival in town, she despatched 
a note, saying that she wished to see him — that her own 
knowledge of London was somewhat limited, and that 
she left it to him to suggest where she could meet him 
with least inconvenience and chance of observation. 

Mr. Lightfoot replied, with much promptitude, " that 
he should do himself the honour to attend Miss 
Langworthy's commands upon any day she might think 
fit to name; that if he might presume to advise, the 
fountains in Kensington Gardens afforded a rendezvous 
not much frequented in the morning by the fashionable 
world ; that, if Miss Langworthy would be there at any 
time she might think lit to name, take a moderately con- 
spicuous seat, and do him the favour to keep her veil up 
and remain stationary, he had not the slightest doubt 
about finding her. "But," said Mr. Lightfoot, in con- 
clusion, " wherever you may think proper to seat yourself, 
do me the favour not to move, as my experience teaches 

194 False Cards, 

me that, though it is very easy anywhere for one person 
to find another, yet, if two people mutually set about 
such discovery, they seldom meet." 

It having been settled one afternoon that they should 
devote the next day to " doing the Royal Academy." 
Miss Langworthy wrote a line to say that she would be 
at the fountains at half-past twelve, and pleaded at break- 
fast a severe headache as excuse for breaking the engage- 
ment. Mr. Holbourne and his daughter accordingly 
started without her. No sooner were they well off than 
Marion set out to keep her assignation. 

She took a chair on arriving there, and in less than 
ten minutes a quietly- dressed man raised his hat to her, 
and announced himself as Mr. Lightfoot. 

" Take a seat, please," said Marion, " as our conversa- 
tion may last some little time. Now," she continued, as 
the adventurer placed himself beside her, " as far as my 
commissions have extended, I have been satisfied. You 
charge high, Mr. Lightfoot, for your information ; but it 
is certainly prompt, and I believe accurate." 

" Secret intelligence, Miss Langworthy, is mostly ex- 
pensive. If you have made no mistake about the details 
of the inquiries you have entrusted me to make, I pledge 
myself to the accuracy of the information 1 have for- 
warded to you." 

" Some of it, sir, may be probably tested shortly, 
although I have no cause to doubt that it is true enough, 
But I have a more elaborate mission for you just now. 
You know Mr. Charles Collingham ? " 

" Certainly." 

" You know where he lives, what his pursuits are, who 
are his friends ? " said Marion. 

" Pretty well, but could know the latter much more 
fully in a little time." 

" You know his wife by sight, probably." 

" Assuredly not, and am unaware at present that he is 

" I have reason to believe that he is," replied Marion, 
sharply, " and the discovery of that marriage is the com- 
mission I now give you." 

" It shall be investigated at once, but any hints you 

Alarums i^ommissiuii. 193 

may be able to afford me to start on will, of course, make 
matters easier. He most certainly does not live with his 
wife at present. Though I never heard he had one, it is 
quite possible. I do not know very much about him — ■ 
should, indeed, not even be aware of the fact that they 
don't live together, had you not commissioned me to 
obtain a specimen of his handwriting." 

" Let me think a few moments ! " exclaimed Marion, 
" while I place together the scraps I know about the affair. 
They don't amount to much, but may afford you some clue. " 

For a few moments Miss Langworthy was silent, and 
then continued — 

" He quarrelled with his father, Sir John, some five 
years ago — he would be just leaving Oxford then — sup 
posed reason that he married a woman of bad character, 
in spite of Sir John's remonstrances ; and though nothing 
is known for certain, he is assumed to have lived in 
London ever since." 

" Thanks, Miss Langworthy ; that gives me much to go 
on at once. I know now somewhere about the date of 
the presumed marriage, and that it was probably con- 
tracted in the vicinity of Oxford, or took place in London . 
Mere presumption, of course, but fair presumption all the 
same. Someting to work upon." 

" How long will it be before you can furnish the infor- 
mation I require?" asked Marion. 

"Impossible to say. You see this is a much more com- 
plicated business than your former commissions, Miss 
Langworthy. To begin with, it is not even certain that 
there was a marriage," and Mr. Lightfoot regarded his 
companion with some curiosity. 

" No, but my woman's instinct tells me there was." 

" Very likely, but with every deference for your judg- 
ment, it is still but pure conjecture on your part, if I 
understand you rightly." 

Marion bowed her head. 

"To do anything in this business," resumed Lightfoot, 
" I must have money. I don't wish to discourage you, 
Miss Langworthy, but unless you put that pretty freely 
at my command, I tell you frankly there is little chance 
of my being able to assist you." 

196 False Cards. 

" I came prepared for that ; there is twenty pounds to 
start with, and I will send you some more shortly. I think 
that is all I have to say at present — anything you have 
to communicate you had better address to Aldringham," 
with which Marion rose, bent her head slightly, and 
walked slowly away in the direction of the Park. 

Lightfoot followed her with his eyes for a little, and 
then fondly regarded the two ten-pound notes she had 
placed in his hands. 

"In a second back parlour in Chancery Lane 
Lived a knowing old file who did always maintain. " 

hummed that citizen of the world airily. "It is a start, 
it is, this," he muttered, pausing in his minstrelsie. Now 
what the deuce is this girl driving at ? Imprimis, ascer- 
tain all about Miss Cheslett. Motive simple there — some- 
thing between her and her cousin most likely, and an 
attack of jealousy supervened. But what can she want 
with Collingham's writing, aud what is it to her whether 
he's married or not ? I must know this. When I exer- 
cise my talents for investigation, although of course the 
assuaging of a fellow-creature's curiosity is the first motive 
— bless 'em, they're always wanting to know," muttered 
Mr. Lightfoot parenthetically — " yet I look not only to 
pocketing the flimsies generally, but to the acquisi- 
tion of a slight hold upon my employer. To speak meta- 
phorically, it is essential that a contemptible weakness for 
prying into his neighbour's affairs should knot a silken rope 
round his own neck, the holding of which shall conduce 
to my future benefit. Miss Langworthy, I regret it, but 
it is all in the way of business. I must have your delicate 
neck within the noose. Niece of a prosperous banker, 
the very stones would cry shame upon me should I let 
you escape with the hook so deep set in your gills. It's 
a curious world — very," mused Mr. Lightfoot, addressing 
his remarks to the nursemaids and fountains generally. 
" Here's a young woman of good position, to gratify her 
malice, spleen, or jealousy, putting herself in the hands 
of a man of whom she knows nothing. The public 
would look upon this as a singular case. The public ! " 
continued Mr. Lightfoot, contemptuously, " upon my 
word I doubt if it is possible to conceive the extent of 

Marion's Commission, 197 

the gullibility of the public. Although the newspapers 
contain records of such imprudent faith in the plausible 
6tranger, and what comes of it about three times a week, 
there is always a succession of fatuous individuals who 
believe men only advertise to benefit their fellows. They 
go shovelling their money into all sorts of gaudily adver- 
tised concerns, knowing as much about them as I do of 
the equator; and then how they scream when the kettle 
boils over, and the monkey hops off with the chestnuts ! 
It is hard to expect one to be exactly honest while there 
are so many foolish people about. They say indis- 
criminate charity makes beggars. 'Tis such continuous 
credulity makes rogues. Now it is quite possible preju- 
diced people might class me in that latter category, but 
what does it signify as long as they fail to establish such 
mistaken theory in the eyes of the law ? Ah, what a 
blessing it is that we have no such animal as a public 
prosecutor ! Folks who have been gulled are loth to 
show what arrant fools they have been, by taking 
summary proceedings against men like me. Having lost 
your money it is small satisfaction to be laughed at 

At lengtii something occurred to cut the thread of 
Mr. Lightfoot's reflections, and that gentleman arose and 
strolled leisurely towards the Bayswater Road. 

" It's him, and no mistake," observed a sleek, close- 
cropped, dark complexioned man, as he sprang briskly 
from an adjacent seat, which had been masked from the 
philosopher's gaze by the intervening bushes. " I wonder 
what his game is this time ? I should like to have fol- 
lowed the lady, and made out who she is. I can't follow 
them both- — that is as clear as mud ! Lightfoot, my boy, 
you've done me brown twice, take care I don't turn the 
tables this time ! Tom Bullock's not the man to forgive 
being bowled out ! What a bit of luck my happening 
to come here this morning ? " and with this the detective 
commenced to dog the footsteps of his amateur brother 
with much skill and craftiness. 

The situation reminds me of a story I was once told by 
an Indian sporting acquaintance. He was out after deer, 
and in the course of the day wounded one badly, and 

t98 False Cards. 

commenced to track it. Before he had pursued his quarry 
a quarter of an hour he became somehow conscious that 
something was tracking him. " The sensation was 
uncomfortable," he continued. " I don't know how the deer 
felt, but I grew scary all over. Bear in mind I had never 
had a turn at big game of any sort, and was quite unpre- 
pared to encounter such. Picture my feelings when my 
shikarree, casting most uneasy looks over his shoulder, 

Sahib ! Sahib ! I tink tiger after deer, and we 

ii i 

" Good gracious ! what did you do ? " I asked. 

" Do ! why, stepped out of the way, of course ! " replied 
my friend. 

You see, we have Mr. Lightfoot on the track of Col- 
lingham, and there is a sharp watch-dog of the detective 
police, who, though Lightfoot does not know it, is busy 
upon his own trail. Will he also receive timely warning, 
and " step out of the way ? " 

Mr. Holbourne had never been favourably impressed 
with London. When you are accustomed to play the 
bashaw with three tails in fyour own country, there is 
something supremely levelling in the crush of the big 
city. Mr. Holbourne, the great Aldringham banker, was, 
of course, nobody in London. The metropolitan crowd 
trod on his toes, and ground his ribs, with slight revere'nce 
for his pompous and dignified appearance. The double 
gold eye-glasses that, when levelled, were wont to pro- 
duce such an impression down at Aldringham, had once 
or twice elicited the somewhat opprobrious epithet of 
" old gig lamps " from the vulgar herd, and a con- 
tumacious cabman had refused his proffered shilling, with 
the somewhat familiar and enigmatic remark, " Come, 
that won't fizz, governor ! " Mr. Holbourne was horrified 
at the democratic strides of public opinion, and found it 
hard to believe that the rabble should dare to address a man 
of his undoubted respectability with such irreverence. 

It is trying when the world refuses to acknowledge our 
position, and treats that dignity upon which we so pride 
ourselves with scant deference. 

Mr. Holbourne finds himself of no more account in the 

Mnrioii's Commission. 199 

fashionable mob at the Royal Academy than he has been 
elsewhere during his London sojourn. He fumes and 
frets, pishes and pshas, as people tread on his feet, or 
jostle him in their anxiety to obtain a more favourable 
view of some picture recorded in the papers as among 
the elect of the year. Now and then, it is true, Grace's 
pretty face extorts courtesy from the men, which Mr. 
Holbourne acknowledges with much magnificence. It is 
on one of these happy occasions, while he is staring with 
his most patronizing air at a large painting, the subject 
of much varied criticism, that his daughter, who is 
standing a pace or two further back, is startled with a 
whisper behind her in well-known tones. 

" Lose your father, Grade," murmurs the voice, " and 
meet me at the entrance-wicket." 

Miss Holbourne turns sharply round, and recognises 
her lover, already some two or three yards away. She 
gave a little nod in reply to his glance of interrogation ; 
and, singular coincidence, within five minutes the 
banker misses his daughter. He naturally seeks his lost 
sheep round and round the room in which she has so 
unaccountably vanished. 

To those unfortunates disapproved of by the authori- 
ties, there are few finer fields for the prosecution of their 
unlawful love-making than that vouchsafed by the Royal 
Academy. Losing your party there is easy enough when 
you would fain avoid doing so ; but with disposition to 
evade it, nothing can be so simple. You may get 
separated from them before lunch, and return home late 
in the afternoon, wrathful, petulant, and abusive, pro- 
testing that you have spent hours hunting for them, 
that you are tired to death, that you have never been 
so miserable, and that you never, never, ne-ever will 
go anywhere with them again. You can enact the 
martyr till your own family feels penitent on the score 
of not taking proper care of you. Wise in her genera- 
tion was the lady fair who first explained to me the 
manifold readings of " seeing the pictures." 

"Charlie, Charlie, I did so want to see you ! " said Miss 
Holbourne, as she greeted her lover a the above-named 

200 False Caras. 

" Well, I rather hoped so," returned the latter, laugh- 
ing. " The reason why I addressed you in that melo- 
dramatic whisper " 

" Do be serious," she continued. " It is all over 
Aldringham that you are married, and it makes me 
very unhappy." 

" It would make me very happy if it were true ; but I 
trust it won't be long, Grace, before we prove Aldring- 
ham right, though a little premature in its knowledge." 

" You always laugh," she replied, petulantly. " But 
do you think this is easy for me to bear ? Marion 
more than suspects our secret, and never spares me an 
indirect jibe upon the subject." 

" Ah ! I was not wrong, then, in my first estimate 
of Miss Langworthy's character. Gracie, if you've 
become the target of a bitter woman's spiteful tongue, I 
shall change my programme — I cannot, must not leave 
you exposed to that." 

" Oh ! Charlie ! " exclaimed the girl, rather peni- 
tently, as she saw how deeply her lover was moved, and 
so awoke to the consciousness that she had somewhat 
exaggerated her own woes, "I did not quite mean that. 
Marion is exasperating at times, and tries me sorely, but 
not beyond what it is quite possible to endure." 

"Is it so?" he replied quickly, and looking keenly 
into her eyes. " Listen, Grace ; it will not be long now 
before I claim you before all the world. It would be 
better that we should wait a little, I think ; but it shall 
be for you to decide." 

" No, Charlie, you — I trust you implicitly." 

" Then, dearest, you must wait, with this proviso, that 
if Miss Langworthy should prove past bearing, you let 
me know. Concealment shall end then, hap what may. 
But I see your father approaching. Good-bye." 

A warm clasp of the hand, and he was gone, leaving 
Grace to explain to her father how she had missed him 
'in her own fashion. 



RAPED in deepest mourning, her pale cheek 
resting on her hand, and her dark eyes lost in 
vacancy, sits Lettice, two days after the funeral. 
She is curled up, after her favourite fashion, 
in the window-seat of Reginald Holbourne's sitting- 
room. She is thinking dreamily what is to become of 
her ? She is lost ; she does not know exactly even how 
she is to live. She has locked up all her grandfather's 
papers till Reginald shall come back. She pored over 
them for four hours yesterday, but failed utterly to under- 
stand what she read. She does not know where his 
money, such as it was, came from, It might not be 
much, but it had enabled they two to live — if somewhat 
poorly, at all events in tolerable comfort. Had it all 
departed with him, and was she left destitute ? She does 
not know ; she cannot understand those papers. Her 
lips parted in a soft smile, as she murmured — " It does 
not much matter. I belong to Reginald now, and he 
must take care of me." 

She had received one more letter from him since 
that last we had cognizance of, and has written to tell 
him of her grandfather's death. " Please come back," 
she urged, " as soon as you can ; for not only am I very 
lonely and miserable, but I have no one to tell me what 
to do about my poor grandfather's affairs, I cannot 

202 False Cards. 

understand those musty law papers. I puzzled over them 
yesterday till my head ached. I don't know whether 
there is anything left for me to live on, or whether I 
ought to begin to earn my bread at once ; and worse 
than u'A, Reginald, I don't know how to set about it, if 
it is so. Come back, dearest, as soon as you can, for 
your Lettice is in sore trouble, and not a soul in the 
world to look to but you. I know, of course, you 
cannot return till your errand, whatever it may be, is 
accomplished ; but, that done, you will not linger, will 
you ? but think of your own Lettice." 

But though Lettice might well write despondently, that 
love-dream of hers served her well as yet. But for that 
her grandfather's death would have been utter desola- 
tion. She grieved much for the queer, querulous old 
man, who had so long been her protector and guardian ; 
yet, wrapped in all the glamour of a girl's first passion, 
she did not feel it as she otherwise would have done. 
She is so assured of Reginald's love, so happy in the 
receipt of those letters, so confident, on his return, that 
all her troubles will be swept away ; and yet even now 
the malevolent spirit that sways her destiny is approach- 
ing — wending its way up Baker Street in silken robes 
and high-heeled shoes, with heart pitiless and firm of 
purpose as a millstone. Little mercy need you hope, 
poor child, from a vindictive woman, who has fair 
grounds to consider herself wronged. 

Slowly Marion Langworthy pursues her way up the 
street, bent on her errand of vengeance, should such be 
practicable. But she knows not her foe as yet, and this 
girl who has dared to step between her and Reginald 
may, perchance, be of a brazened kind, and not easy to 
cope with. Still Marion has implicit faith in her own 
powers of dissimulation, should such be necessary, and 
it is with resolute hand that she knocks at the door of 
Reginald's lodgings. 

" Mr. Holbourne lives here, I believe ?" she observed, 
interrogatively, as the door opened. 

" Yes, ma'am," replied Sarah, " but he's abroad just now." 

"I know. I want you, in the first place, to show me 
up to his rooms." 

An Unequal Battle. 203 

" Can't ma'am ; there's a lady in 'em," replied Sarah. 

" A lady ! " exclaimed Marion. " Oh, Miss Cheslett, 
I suppose. It is her I want to see. You can show me 

" What name shall I say ? " 

" Never mind my name. It is not likely Miss Cheslett 
would know it if she heard it. Say simply a lady to see 

Marion followed the servant girl so closely up the 
stairs as almost to preclude any chance of denial, 

Sarah, thoroughly abashed by the fashionably-dressed 
visitor, simply threw open the door of the sitting-room, 
and with the curt announcement, "A lady to see you, 
Miss," vanished. 

Marion enters. At last she is face to face with this 
girl who has tempted Reginald from his allegiance. She 
starts involuntarily, as a shy, timid, shrinking figure, 
clad in deepest mourning, comes hesitatingly forward to 
greet her. 

Marion is mistress of the situation at a glance Not 
much to be feared in this encounter, is her first thought. 
The girl is pretty, very pretty, is her second. Not likely 
that latter admission will incline Miss Langworthy to 
show much mercy. 

" You wish to see me," faltered Lettice, after a pause 
of some seconds, during which Marion surveyed her with 
an insolent stare. " Or it may be that you come to see 
Mr. Holbourne, for these are his rooms." 

" I came to see you," replied Marion, in slow, mea- 
sured tones, " although I scarcely expected to find you in 
Air. Holbourne's apartments." 

" No, of course not. I must explain," said Lettice, 

'' Better not, I think ; the explanation could but be 
painful to you, and I fancy I am tolerably well aware of 
the circumstances." 

" You are very kind to spare me the story," said the 
girl, simply, little dreaming of the misconstruction that 
her visitor placed upon her words. " But will you not 
Bit down ? " 

Marion seated herself with the slightest possible incli- 

204 False Cards. 

nation of her head, in acknowledgment of her hostess's 

" You have lived here some time ? " she asked. 

" About eighteen months, I think. I did not like it at 
first, but I have got fond of the place now." 

" Perhaps the relation you have stood in latterly to 
Mr. Holbourne makes a difference ? " remarked Miss 
Langworthy, suavely. 

" Ah, yes, it is that. Has Reginald told you, then ? 
You are a friend, connection of his — is it not so ? " And 
Lettice clasped her hands and looked eagerly at her 

" I am his cousin." 

" And has he told you about me ? " said the girl, as 
she crossed and placed herself on a low stool at Marion's 
feet. " I did not know he had yet spoken to his family. 
From what he said, I thought he was afraid that they 
might not like it. But you will befriend us, will you 
not ? I do love him so, and I am left now all alone ! " 

" Either this girl is a consummate fool, or I've not read 
my riddle right," mused Marion. " So you are very fond 
of him, child?" 

" Yes," she murmured, blushing. " He stole my heart 
before I knew I had one ; he had it, shame on me, before 
he asked it ! Was it he sent you to see me ? " she con- 
tinued shyly. 

" No," replied Marion ; and then, with a sudden inspi- 
ration, she added, " You must promise solemnly not to 
let Reginald know that you have seen me until I give 
you leave." 

Lettice hesitated, and then said timidly, " I don't like 
having secrets from Reginald." 

" But suppose it is both for his good and yours, child," 
retorted Miss Langworthy sharply. 

" You would not have come to see me unless you 
meant to be a friend to me," murmured the girl slowly. 
" I promise." 

" See you keep it. How long have you been living 
here — these rooms, I mean ?" 

" Since my grandfather's death," replied Lettice in a 
low voice. 

A' 1 . Unequal Battle, 20" 

Once more Miss Langworthy was puzzled. They were 
playing at cross purposes those two. Yet, although her 
rival stood apparently condemned out of her own mouth, 
Marion, as she looked at her, felt intuitively that no 
guilty love was Lettice's, and wondrous quick is woman's 
instinct in such matters. But Miss Langworthy had 
Jittle intention of letting that conviction influence her 
further proceedings. 

"I suppose it never occurred to you," she resumed, 
" that people might remark upon your intimacy with 
Reginald Holbourne ? " 

Lettice opened her eyes wide for a moment, and then 
with a smile said, " Who are to trouble themselves about 
me ? I know no one." 

" But you never thought what the neighbours might 
say," continued Marion, pertinaciously. 

"What should they say? — why should they notice 
me ? " cried the girl quickly, as she became instinctively 
aware that danger was impending. " And who are you 
that question me so closely ? " 

" Who am I ? " returned Marion, in clear ringing tones 
— "I am Reginald Holbourne's affianced wife. What 
have I come for? — to confront Reginald Holbourne's 
mistress, and to judge for myself whether he has offended 
past forgiveness." 

Lettice bounded to her feet ; the blood crimsoned 
neck, cheek, and temple to the very roots of her hair. 
But it was the righteous blush of indignation that dyed 
her face, not the tell-tale banner of shame. 

" You wicked woman ! " she gasped at length, " how 
can you tell such falsehoods, when you know I am Regi- 
nald's promised bride ? " 

" Promised bride ! " sneered Miss Langworthy. " Do 
men lodge promised brides in their bachelor quarters ? 
Do men of good position like Reginald Holbourne wed 
nobodies like you ? Do men wed with the shop-girls 
with whom they may amuse their idle hours ? Some 
rumours of this reached my ears some time back. I'll 
have no more of it, and he shall choose between you and 
me. You say you love him : such as you never 
love ; but should your influence prove stronger than 


2o6 False Cards. 

mine, you will be his ruin, if that's any satisfaction to 

Lettice stood as if stunned. For the first time she 
recognised what construction could be placed upon her 
inhabiting Reginald's rooms in his absence — how inno- 
cently, we already know. For the first time it was 
brought home to her how her intimacy with Reginald 
might be interpreted. Child as she was, and guileless of 
the world's ways, she might well be thunderstruck at the 
fell charge brought against her. For a few seconds she 
cowered as if stricken to the ground by her ruthless 
assailant ; then rearing her head proudly, she replied, 

" That I am not what you call me, you know. The 
people of the house can tell you I have inhabited these 
rooms but a few days, and that in consequence of my 
grandfather's sudden death, which left my own no fit 
place for me for a time ! " She could not suppress an 
hysterical sob here, but mastered herself bravely and 
went on — " You say you are Reginald's affianced bride, 
and being that, you could bring yourself to believe this 
of him ? You say such as I cannot love. If so, I know 
not what you ladies call love. I could sacrifice myself 
for him, and if his love for me bodes him ill, he shall 
never see me again. My heart may break — let it — it 
were best so. If I am never to see him more, it matters 
little what happens to me. But I could not have spoken 
such cruel words as you have done even to a dog that he 
had once caressed." 

She ceased, and the tears gushed tempestuously from 
her eyes. It was but for a few moments, and then she 
dashed them impatiently aside. 

" What would you next?" she cried almost fiercely. 
" Do you wish to look further on the misery you have 
wrought ? or what is it that you have come for ? " 

Marion felt a certain admiration for the girl's courage- 
ous vindication of herself and her lover, but wavered no 
iota in her purpose. She had come there to break this 
connection, if possible. She saw now that her task was 
easier than she had looked for. 

"If I have done you wrong, blame yourself," she 
replied coldly. " If I took you for Reginald's mistress, it 

An TT„eqiial Battle. 207 

is but what the gossip of your own street would endorse. 
If he has but filled your foolish head with the idea of 
being his wife, he has done you less harm than I 

"He means me to be his wife, and I can trust him ! " 
cried the girl indignantly. 

" And this is your love ! I say nothing of the claims 
I have upon him, but if he weds you, it will be at the 
sacrifice of every family tie he has — certain rupture with 
his father, who will scarce consent to receive a girl picked 
up in a lodging-house as his daughter. His people are 
likely to resent the affront put upon me sharply, and do 
you think I shall bid them stay their hand ?" 

" No," moaned Lettice, " from the way you have treated 
me, I can fancy what mercy you would mete out to those 
that should offend you. " But," she continued defiantly, 
" I could be more to him than you ever can. If he 
married you, would you ever forgive his treason ? " 

Marion's eyes flashed fiercely, for the last shaft came 
home. She knew, hap what might, she should be little 
likely to condone Reginald's lapse of allegiance ; but it 
was in cold, steely tones she replied, 

" And you think you can be all in all to him? Have 
you pictured him alienated from his father, sister, kindred 
— all assistance, pecuniary or otherwise, that might 
enable him to push his way through the world forfeited, 
because he lost his head about your chit's face, and in a 
mad moment of passion made you his wife ? " 

The battle was too unequal. Lettice, with only the 
great light of her love to guide her inexperience, pitted 
against a cool, calculating, worldly woman such as 
Marion, who was making capital of that very love to win 
the crafty game she was playing. There was silence 
between them for some minutes. Lettice had thrown 
herself upon the sofa and buried her face in her hands, 
while Miss Langworthy was too astute not to give her 
last speech time to work. 

"What is it you want ? " cried the girl at last, raising 
her head and looking her visitor full in the face. " What 
is it you have come for ? " 

" Come for ? " replied Marion, with more animation 

2oS False Cards, 

than she had yet shown, while a relentless light glittered 
in her pale blue eyes. " I have come to see the woman 
for whom Reginald Holbourne would sacrifice his honour 
— to look upon the face that had lured him to break his 
plighted word — to see what he was to get in exchange 
for all the prospects he forfeited — to see," and her voice 
sank to a fierce whisper, " what she might be like who 
had dared to come between him and me ! " 

Lettice shrank beneath the bitter words, but only 
covered her face with her hands, and spoke not. 

" You talk of your love, and declare if it boded him 
harm you would never see him more," continued Marion, 
vehemently, " What do you say now ? I tell you it is 
destruction to him to wed you. Will you act up to 
your words, and disappear from his sight — bury yourself 
so that he shall seek vainly for a trace of you, or will you 
face the storm of a jealous woman's wrath, and expose 
him to the worst that she can work on him and you ? 
Speak ! speak ! — if it is but to confess your love falters 
at such sacrifice — that it is no purer nor better than 
mine, nor of a vintage strong enough to turn to such gall 
as mine is capable of ! " 

" I do love him — love him in a fashion that you cannot 
comprehend. If he wronged me ever so cruelly I could 
but go on loving him. What is it you require of me ? 
You say I shall be ruin to his whole life if he wed me. 
That, then, shall he never. But forgive me if I say," 
continued Lettice, rising, drawing her girlish figure to 
its full height, and looking proudly at her adversary — 
" forgive me if I say that it will be equal ruin to his life 
should he marry you. You do not love him, and will 
never forget that he once forgot you. Say what you 
would have of me." 

" That you disappear from this, and leave not a trace 
behind," replied Marion, sternly — " that all communica- 
tion between you cease from this time. Whether he 
and I are ever anything to each other again or not, I am 
doing him a good turn when I step between him and you. 
Will you promise ? " 

Lettice bowed her head. 

" Then I have done my errand," said Marion, rising. 

An Unequal Battle. 209 

" It is little likely that Reginald Holbourne will ever be 
more than cousin to me now. I shall, thanks to you — ■ 
and you do love him dearly, or you'd not have promised 
it — save his life from shipwreck at the outset. If I have 
thought evil of you, and said bitter things to you, I now 
ask your pardon." And, with a frank smile, Miss Lang- 
worthy extended her hand. 

A slight shudder ran through Lettice's frame as she 
shook her head gently. 

"No," she replied; "I will keep my promise, but I 
cannot touch your hand. Your lips have brought too 
cruel a charge against me for us to part friends." 

" As you will," returned Marion, with a forced laugh. 
" I will bid you good-bye, then." And, with a haughty 
inclination of her head, Miss Langworthy made her way 
to the door. Pausing there for a moment, she turned and 
said, slowly, " Don't forget you promised not to mention 
my visit." 

" But I must ! " cried Lettice, passionately. " I cannot 
go away without leaving a line of explanation. How 
shall I make him understand without mentioning your 
name ? " 

" I have nothing to do with that — you pledged yourself 
not to mention it, and I expect you to keep your word." 
And, so saying, Marion closed the door behind her, and 

For a few seconds Lettice stood, with parted lips and 
eyes fixed in stony stare upon the door. Womanly pride, 
and indignation at the scandalous accusation that her 
visitor had ventured to bring against her, had so far 
sustained her, but now she awoke to the consciousness 
that her love- dream was shattered. She felt dazed. She 
to be taunted with working evil to Reginald, who felt 
she could give her life for him ! Life ! she had promised 
to do more — to sacrifice her love. " Oh ! that I could 
but die ! " she murmured ; " it were easy that, compared 
with what I have pledged myself to. Who is this 
woman ? His cousin, she said, and I never even thought 
to ask her name ! Is her story true ? " And, as she 
asked herself the question, she shuddered, for she felt 
intuitively that it was so. Reginald had never spoken to 

21 F a i se Cards. 

her of his relations, but, young as she was, she could 
quite understand that they might fiercely oppose his 
marriage with herself. 

"All alone ! " she cried, piteously, as she threw herself 
upon the sofa. " None in the world have I to look to for 
counsel or protection save him, and that cruel woman 
says I am wrecking his life by loving him ! What's to 
become of me I don't know; but they shall never have 
the power to say that it was I who brought trouble on 
him. And yet I know he loves me — he will be sore at 
heart when he returns and finds his Lettice gone. How 
could he ever have cared for that cold, insolent woman, 
with her merciless eyes ? He never did — she must have 
entrapped him into wooing her. If there were such 
things as love-philtres, I'd say she had given him one." 

Strong in her new-born love, Lettice had not as yet 
recognised how desolate she was left — now, for the first 
time, she was brought face to face with the grim fact that 
she had to brave the world alone. She tramped up and 
down the room with tearless eyes, but the quivering lip, 
and fretful nervous movement of her hands, showed how 
she yet wrestled with her agony. Her voice sounded 
strange to herself as she bade Sarah take away her tea 
and close the shutters; and that handmaiden, as she 
regarded the untouched tray, ventured to ask if she was 

" No. What should make you think so ? " replied 
Lettice, sharply. " One does not always want tea and toast." 

Sarah made no response, but came to the conclusion 
that the strange lady had upset Miss Lettice ; but as she 
had nobody to confide her opinion to except the cook, 
and the cockroaches that shared the kitchen with her, 
there was little speculation on Lettice's conduct that 
evening in Baker Street. 

" Oh ! bed ! bed ! delicious bed ! 
That heaven upon earth to the weary head, 
Whether lofty or low its condition ! " 

But when the sun streamed into Lettice's bed-room 
next morning it was greeted by a tear-stained face, and 
a pair of dark eyes heavy with weeping, that showed 
little sign of refreshing slumber. 



ISS MEGGOTT is whisking about the sitting- 
room at Brompton, duster in hand, attempting 
to set that somewhat chaotic apartment in 
order. Miss Meggott does not condescend to 
meddle with bed- rooms, but it is a stipulation between 
her and her lodgers that no housemaid's unhallowed 
hands were to interfere with their books and papers. 

" There, it looks a little better now," she said, pausing 
in the midst of her labours to take stock of the effect. 
" I should like to right up those two tables, but, bless me, I 
daren't. I should be mixing tragedies and comedies, 
leading and magazine articles, and never hear the last of 
it. Very littery are these literary gentlemen ! " — And 
Miss Megott indulged in a quaint little smile at her own 
joke. " They keep their very papers in such a muddle, 
it's a wonder they don't make awful mistakes at times. 
Perhaps they do, and that's when the reviews let 'em 
have it. However, they don't seem to mind much when 
they do. I have never felt it my duty to place their 
razors under restraint when the newspapers write their 
wickedest concerning 'em. Mr. Donaldson seems to 
take it out in tobacco — the more they abuse him the 
more he smokes ; while as for Mr. Collingham, it's my 
impression he passes it on, and just pitches into some one 
else in the Misanthrope. There, it's fit for a Christian 

2i2 Palse Cards 

to sit down in now ! " continued Miss Meggott, as she 
glanced round the room, " and I wonder how long they'll 
leave it so ? " 

A peal at the door-bell interrupted that young lady's 
reflections, and she hastened to answer the summons. 
She found herself confronted by an elderly man, whose 
long grizzled hair overflowed his coat-collar. He was 
decently dressed, but there was an aspect of respectable 
poverty about the well-brushed and somewhat thread- 
bare garments that was unmistakeable. His hat showed 
sign of much careful manipulation, and there were cracks 
yet visible in his well-darned gloves. In somewhat timid 
manner he asked if Mr. Donaldson was at home. 

" No," replied Polly, curtly, " he's not, nor likely to be 
till about five." 

" Oh, dear ! " said the man, shuffling his feet nervously 
to and fro on the step ; " and he promised to see me at 
twelve. It is a matter of the utmost importance to me, 
although I don't suppose he ever thought of that. You 
see," he continued, while his restless fingers kept con- 
tinually buttoning and unbuttoning his coat, "it is a 
little matter of money, a trifle of no consequence to him, 
but it represents fire and food to me and mine. Times 
have gone badly with me of late," and here a racking 
cough convulsed the speaker. " Could I write a line to 
him anywhere ? " he gasped, when he had somewhat 
recovered. " He would be sorry, I know, to think his 
carelessness had caused an old friend considerable 

Polly's womanly heart was melted, and it was in much 
subdued tones that she bid the stranger come in ; and 
ushering him up to the sitting-room, placed pen and 
paper before him. He took off his hat, and put on a 
pair "of spectacles with great deliberation, but as his 
trembling fingers took the pen, he was seized with 
another paroxysm of coughing that threatened to shake 
his feeble frame almost to pieces. " Water ! water ! " 
he gasped at length, and Polly, who was really frightened, 
flew downstairs to procure some. No sooner were her 
footsteps out of hearing than a singular change mani- 
fested itself in the old gentleman — the racking cough 

miss meggott ts ueceivca. Z13 

was replaced by an unmistakable chuckle, and jumping 
from his chair with an agility much at variance with his 
hitherto debilitated manner, he crossed as quick as 
thought, to the nearest writing-table. " Ah ! this is the 
wrong one ! " he muttered, after a cursory glance at the 
handwriting of one or two of the manuscript sheets that 
lay scattered about — " the other is Collingham's." In a 
second he was there, and had tried the drawers. "All 
open but one," he continued, " and that of course is the 
only one it is worth my while to tumble over. But here 
comes my hostess," and regaining his seat quickly, he 
rested his head upon his hands, and appeared completely 
exhausted by the paroxysm he had gone through. 

Polly bustled in with her glass of water, of which the 
old gentleman took a few sips, and then endeavoured to 
resume his pen, but his hand shook so that he was forced 
once more to lay it aside. 

"I beg your pardon for the trouble I am giving," be 
said, in a low voice. " but these attacks leave me so 
prostrate that I am really incapable of anything for a 
time. Allow me a few minutes, please," and as he spoke 
he placed his hand upon his heart, and appeared to 
breath painfully. 

" Let me get you a glass of wine, sir, or a little brandy - 
and-water," said Miss Meggott, soothingly. 

She really quite felt for this poor afflicted old gentle- 
man, and thought Mr. Donaldson deserving of much 
reprobation for such careless neglect of his appointment. 

" Thanks, no, my dear," replied the old gentleman. 
" The doctors prohibit all stimulant of that nature. If — 
but it would be giving you too much trouble ■" 

" Never mind about the trouble," replied Polly, 
quickly. " If you can mention anything that will do 
you good, I will get it, if it's to be got." 

"It's very kind of you. If you would not mind 
running round to the nearest chemist's for a strong dose 
of laudanum and ammonia, such as is commonly given 
to people troubled with a bad spasmodic cough, you 
would confer a real service on me." And here the old 
gentleman was troubled with another though milder 

214 False Cards. 

"Laudanum and ammonia," repeated Polly — "I'll 
fetch it. You stay quiet here till I come back." And 
Miss Meggott sped away on her errand. 

The sufferer remained motionless till he heard the slam 
of the street-door, then, rising with a grin of intense 
satisfaction pervading his features, he exclaimed, " Man- 
kind are very gullible — especially women. It is really 
no credit deceiving them. That's a sharp girl, and yet 
this is a second occasion within a few weeks on which I 
have fooled her. But I mustn't lose time. Now for this 
drawer. It didn't look anything elaborate in locks, and 
[ should think will answer to one of these." As he spoke 
he drew from his pocket a varied collection of keys, and 
one or two instruments appertaining to lock-picking. 

In less than five minutes his dexterous fingers had 
succeeded in forcing back the lock, and he was running 
hastily over the contents of the drawer, but apparently 
without result. " Nothing here," he muttered, " to give 
one any clue. If he ever was married, and keeps any 
letters or papers that show proof of such marriage, he 
doesn't keep them here, that's clear. I wonder whether 
it is possible to get at his bed-room ? I am afraid not. 
It would be risky to stay much longer — one of them 
might turn up. Ah," he exclaimed, as the ring of the 
street bell caught his quick ear, " my Hebe is back with 
the nauseating nectar. I must swallow it and depart. 
You will have to pay high, Miss Langworthy, for such 
dread service as this," and so saying, he hastily closed 
the drawer and resumed his original seat. 

"Here is what you want," said Miss Meggott, as she 
entered breathless, " but I hope you are more yourself 
by this;" and Polly, placing a small phial on the table, 
hastened to get a wine-glass. 

Mr. Lightfoot — for of course the reader has already 
recognised him — poured the draught he had sent for 
leisurely in the glass and drank it. " Yes," he said, 
" I am better, much better, and this will do me good 
besides. I will just leave a line for Mr. Donaldson, and 
then go." Seizing a pen, he wrote rapidly for a minute 
or two, then folding the letter up addressed it. 

" There." he said at length, " if you would give him 

J/iss M'eggott ts Deceived. 215 

that when he returns I should be obliged. Donaldson 
has a good heart, and means well," continued Mr. Light- 
foot, abstractedly, " but he is thoughtless — very thought- 
less. That is to pay for my medicine, I only wish my 
poverty did not prevent my acknowledging your kindness 
besides, but you must rest content with an old man's 
thanks," and as he spoke Mr. Lightfoot presented Polly 
with a shilling, very much to that young woman's dismay. 
For Miss Meggott was powerfully impressed by this case 
of genteel poverty, and instead of taking that shilling, 
would like to have bestowed one on the donor, had she 
known how to do so without giving offence. 

Polly looked after him with a heart overflowing with 
sympathy, as he limped down the street leaning heavily 
on his stick. 

" Poor old fellow," she muttered, " it was downright 
shameful to take his shilling, but what could I do ? It 
was too bad of Mr. Donaldson to forget his appointment." 

Polly's eyes would have opened wide could she have 
seen the object of her commiseration discard his limp as 
he turned the corner, stride along for half a mile or so, 
most vigorous of elderly gentlemen, and finally hailing 

a hansom, bid the driver energetically to drive like 

to Pentonville Road. " Playing detective for Miss Lang- 
worthy," ruminated Mr. Lightfoot, " has so far been an 
easy and profitable business, but she has set me a stifnsh 
riddle to solve this time. It is a great question whether 
this Collingham ever was married. At all events, I can't 
procure a rag of evidence as to that fact to begin with — 
let alone where it was done, and who was the lady. I 
wonder whether Miss Langworthy is knocking her head 
against a wall. She's a cutish young woman, but ad- 
mitted that she was not very clear on this point — that 
it was but conjecture after all. Well, I've made nothing 
of it so far, and haven't even got the end of a thread 
wherewith to start the unravelling of the tangle as yet. 
If I could only be assured that he had been married, I'd 
bet my life I got at it in time, but there's no use hunting 
for proof of a marrige knot that never was tied. Till I 
can get hold of some evidence that there was a wedding, 
it's no use going into where it took place." 

216 False Cards. 

In Pentonville Road Mr. Lightfoot dismissed his cab, 
and strolled thence leisurely towards his own residence 
in John Street. As he approached it, he was struck by 
the appearance of a respectable artizan, who was loung- 
ing on the opposite pavement. A low laugh broke from 
Mr. Lightfoot as he took stock of this individual ; then, 
once more assuming a limp, and leaning heavily on his 
stick, he crossed the road, and inquired timidly of the 
stranger " which was 22 ? — could he tell him whether 
Mr. Lightfoot lived at 22 or 23 ? — he was short of sight 
and scant of memory, getting old, in short ; he had an 
appointment with that gentleman." The artizan retorted 
gruffly that he " was a stranger in the neighbourhood, 
and knowed nothin' about no Lightfoots nor anyone 
else." To which the lame old gentleman responded with 
a little bow, and then, recrossing the road, knocked at 
22. The stranger observed this proceeding in a lazy way, 
as he stood with his hands in his pockets, sucking a short 
black pipe; but his nonchalant air was considerably 
upset when, upon the door being opened, the infirm old 
man, facing about, laid his forefinger playfully to the 
side of his nose, bestowed upon him a most significant 
wink, and finally kissing his hand affectionately, ex- 
claimed, " Bye-bye, Bullock ! " and vanished 

The detective slunk away completely chapfallen. It 
was quite a craze of his, and a subject of much ridicule 
amongst his mates, this fierce antipathy he held to 
Leonidas Lightfoot. The truth was, Mr. Bullock was 
an enthusiast in his profession, and Mr. Lightfoot had 
upon two occasions proved too clever of fence for him. 
His fellows had chaffed him much upon the way that 
astute adventurer had bamboozled him, or, in their ver- 
nacular, " put the double on him," and vowed that all 
his energies should be devoted to a return match. He 
had lost all sight of his adversary since their last passage 
of arms, till he had come across him accidentally that 
morning in Kensington Gardens. He had tracked him 
home upon that occasion, and had since dedicated much 
of his spare time to observation of that gentleman's 
dwelling, in the hope of once more obtaining an inkling 
of his nefarious pursuits. It is not to be supposed that 

Miss Mcggott 7s Deceived. ?. i ? 

Mr. Bullock had not recognised his antipathy's delicate 
touch in more than one instance — witness his call upon 
the editor of the Morning Misanthrope — but he had 
succeeded in laying hold of no offence against the law 
upon which he could take positive action. He conned 
the Times advertisement-sheet carefully, and now and 
again put his finger upon an insidious notice which he 
pronounced Lightfoot's composition — traps for the un- 
wary all. But whether the public fell into such traps or 
not, he was without knowledge. If they did, they sub- 
mitted to the shearing without outcry or appeal to the 

And now his bete noire actually detects him watching 
his dwelling — speaks to him so cleverly disguised, withal, 
that he, Mr. Bullock, fails to penetrate it, and then 
laughs at his beard. It was enough to bring salt tears 
into the eyes of a man enthusiastic in his art, and looked 
upon as a shining light of Scotland-yard. 

" This would be a nice story to get round," muttered 
Mr. Bullock, as he slunk away discomfited. " I shall 
have a nice time of it if ever my pals get hold of this. 
I could never stand it. They'd laugh me clean out 
of the force. To think of Tom Bullock, who's sup- 
posed to be up to a trick or two, and has got the 
reputation of being one of the smartest officers in the 
' Yard,' being bamboozled like a country policeman. 
Done, diddled, sold, clean, by the very party he was 
supposed to be keeping an eye upon ! It's all very well 
to talk," he grumbled, " but I don's suppose there's one 
of our lot ever tackled such a slippery customer as this. 
Confound him ! " exclaimed Mr. Bullock, with enthu- 
siasm, "he is clever! To give the devil his due, he is 
clever ! He just saw through my disguise quick as wink, 
and what a make-up his own was ! I never twigged him 
no more than if I'd been a baby ! Blessed if I didn't 
think he was an old buffer who'd been caught by one of 
those crafty advertisements he's always putting in the 
papers, and that I might make something of it if I 
waited till he came out again. But I don't mean to be 
beat. Lightfoot, my boy, you've scored one, but one 
point don't make game at anything that's played, and 

218 False Cards. 

those that score first don't always win." With which 
philosophical reflection, Mr. Bullock wended his way 

When Jim Donaldson returned home, he was much 
astonished at the asperity with which Miss Meggott 
greeted him. 

" It's too bad of you, Mr. Donaldson, making an ap- 
pointment with an old gentleman who, it's my belief, is 
not long for this world, and not being here to keep it," 
said Polly. " To say nothing, poor soul, of his being 
evidently in distress, and looking anxiously for your 
promised assistance. He spoke better of you than you 
deserved, for he said you had a good heart, though you 
were thoughtless — very thoughtless." 

" Polly," retorted Donaldson, " I have very great 
respect for you, but whether you are suffering from 
insanity, or imbibing champagne at midday, I am not as 
yet quite clear." 

" It's all very well to try and laugh it off," replied 
Miss Meggott, " but if you had seen how ill he was, and 
what a cough he'd got ! " 

" Stop ! " interrupted Donaldson ; " I had no appoint- 
ment of any kind with anyone. Your old gentleman 
was a flam, if he came to see me."' 

" What ! " cried Miss Meggott ; " why, he's left a note 
for you — here it is ! " 

Donaldson ran his eye over it — " Regrets not finding 
me at home, hopes to be more fortunate on some future 
occasion. Yours respectfully, Cornelius Walkingham." 

" Don't know such a person, never heard the name in 
my life — there, read it ; " and as he tossed her the note, 
Jim remarked quietly, " I suppose he went in for chops 
and sherry, Polly ? " 

" Do you mean to say," replied Miss Meggott, getting 
very red in the face, and speaking with great deliberation, 
" that he was an imposter ? " 

Donaldson nodded. " What was the extent of his 
plundering ? " 

" I don't believe it!" cried Polly, vehemently; "he 
took nothing, would have nothing : he was seized with a 
terrible fit of coughing, for which I ran out and got him 

Jlffss Jlfeggoft is Deceived. 219 

some medicine he asked for, and he gave me a shilling to 
pay for it." 

" Well, I don't know his object, or whether he has 
taken anything away with him, but he had no appoint- 
ment with me, nor did I ever hear his name in my life ; 
and I have no hesitation in asserting, Polly, that you 
have been once more imposed upon, though with what 
reason I confess I do not understand." 

Miss Meggott stoutly combated this view of the case, 
although, at the bottom of her heart, lurked a horrible 
suspicion that it was the truth as regarded that elderly 
visitor. " But," she argued, " what could be his object ? 
— nothing was missing — why such a causeless mystifica- 
tion ? " And to all this Jim Donaldson had nothing to 

" Really," he exclaimed, at length, when Polly's elo- 
quence began to worry him, " I am too much bothered 
weaving my own plots to have inclination to unravel 
other people's." 



jjETTICE stole into the sitting-room the morning 
after Miss Langworthy's visit with a vague sensa- 
tion of terror. Was it possible that the neighbour- 
hood credited her with such shame as Marion 
had dared to allege they did ? She shrank from Sarah 
as she brought in the breakfast, as the thought struck her, 
" Perhaps she deems me the vile thing that pitiless 
woman called me ? What am I to do ? " she moans, 
inwardly — " what power have I to rebut this scandal ? 
None. Reginald only could right me, and scarce that, 
save by marriage. He loves me well, and, if I wait and 
tell him all, he will do it. But is this the love I have 
been so proud of? Is it so women should love ? Shall I 
bring ruin upon him ? No ; I stand all alone, and what 
happens to me concerns only myself. Better my fair 
name should perish than that I should drag him down in 
the world. It is hard, too," she cried, as the tears rained 
down her cheeks, " when life looked all so sweet, to see 
it thus shattered on the threshold ! Did he deceive me ? 
No, I'll not believe that of him. I have won his love, 
but that woman holds his plighted troth. Wrung from 
him how, I know not; but she vows his ruin if he fails to 
keep it. Reginald, my dearest, what I have promised 
wouU seem less bitter, if it were not for the thought that 
she may one day be your bride. Girl as I am, I can see 

Alone 171 We World. 221 

what misery such a wedding will bring to you. My 
wretchedness will be no greater than yours, if ever she 
should call herself your wife." 

One thing only is clear to Lettice at present, that she 
must go away and hide herself. "I have done no wrong," 
she murmured, " but the people around hold me guilty. 
I cannot stay here — I should be afraid to go outside the 
house. False as the accusation is, I should sink with 
shame to meet the eyes of those that deem it true. Ah ! 
Reginald," she cried, in her agony, "was it well to expose 
me to this ? You might have known what scandal those 
pleasant country excursions would give rise to ! I, poor 
fool, thought only of how sweet it was to be with you — 
to listen to the song of the birds, to gaze upon the green 
fields and glittering waters, nor dreamt the world was 
whispering away my good name ! 'Tis done, 'tis gone, 
and I, your love, am left a thing for honest women to 
shrink from." 

Lettice, in her present overwrought frame of mind, 
her love-dream shattered, her character, as she thinks, 
blasted, derived her sole ray of comfort from the thought 
of the sacrifice she was about to make. She would dis- 
appear and leave no trace behind her. Let the world 
deem her Reginald Holbourne's mistress if they would, she 
would not gainsay it. Marrying her involved ruin to 
him she was told ; that she would never bring upon him. 
He at least should know how devotedly, how purely she 
had loved him. That Marion s allegation was derived 
only from her own vindictive, cynical temper, never 
crossed Lettice's mind for an instant. In reality, Baker 
Street had troubled itself little about her movements, 
and the breath of scandal had scarce scorched her fair 
fame ; but so stricken was Lettice by the foul imputation, 
that she never dreamt that her cruel assailant might be 
speaking with slender grounds to go upon. She had been 
so overwhelmed by the construction Miss Langworthy 
had placed upon her occupying Reginald's rooms that she 
deemed assertion of her innocence would be credited by 
no one. She hardly dared to dwell upon what the people 
of the house might think of her, knowing though they 
did all the circumstances of the case, In her own eyes, 

222 False Cards. 

poor child, she stood convicted of want of modesty in 
having consented to occupy her lover's rooms. 

Till this slander reared its head, it had never occurred 
to Lettice's mind that it was anything but natural that 
she should do so under the circumstances ; now she 
regarded everything through a poisoned lens. She fancied 
the blight that had descended upon her reputation was 
bruited abroad far and wide — that all the neighbourhood 
were cognisant of the slur cast upon her good name. She 
pictured to herself the averted heads of the women, the 
bold, insolent stare of the men. True, she had hardly 
an acquaintance, but to Lettice, in her present excited 
state, it seemed that her story must be known to all Baker 
Street. Yes, she must go away and hide herself — bury 
herself somewhere in the big city, so that none might 
ever discover her ; and then Lettice literally cowered on 
the sofa beneath the weight of her woe. 

ToAvards evening she put on her bonnet, and trusting 
to the protection of her heavy crape veil, crept out. She 
was infinitely relieved to find that no one noticed her ; 
and once clear of her own immediate neighbourhood, 
Lettice sped rapidly on her errand. Down Weymouth 
Street she walked swiftly, turned up Portland Place, and 
quickly made her way into the Euston Road ; past the 
huge termini of the Midland and Great Northern Rail- 
ways, till she comes upon the borders of " Merrie Isling- 
ton." Lettice turns up to her left a little before she 
comes to the " Angel," and finally knocks at the dooi of 
a quiet house in John Street. It was here that she and 
her gandfather had lived previously to setting up their 
tent in Baker Street, and Lettice has come to see if their 
old landlady will once more take her in. 

A maid unknown to her responds to Lettice's ring, 
and, in reply to her .inquiry for Mrs. Bopps, straightway 
ushers her into that respectable matron's sanctum. 

" Lor, if it ain't Miss Lettice ! " exclaimed that stout 
and buxom landlady, as she rose to welcome her visitor. 
" Why, you're as welcome, my dear, as the flowers in 
May! My gracious! how you have grown! why, 
you're quite a woman now. Dear, dear, time slips 
away— it seems as if you only left yesterday, and yet 

Alone in the World. 223 

it must be getting on two years since you lived with 
me ! " 

" Very near," replied Lettice, in somewhat unsteady 
tones. '' I have come to see if you can take me in again. 
I have just lost my grandfather." 

" Poor thing ! " replied the sympathetic landlady. " I 
might have guessed it," she continued, with a glance at 
the girl's black dress, " but I was, so to say, struck all of 
a heap at seeing your pretty face again, that I forgot to 
notice what your frock betokened. Well, well, I'm 
sorry for poor Mr. Cheslett ; he was a good, quiet, pleasant 
gentleman, but he was old, and it's what we must all 
come to. Are you all alone in the world now, Miss 
Lettice ? " 

" All alone," she replied, struggling hard with a sob 
that rose in her throat. " None in this huge city can be 
more desolate than I." And here that awkward, choking 
sensation would be no longer denied ; but Lettice burst 
into tears, and sobbed as if her heart would break. Mrs. 
Bopps's question had recalled vividly to her recollection 
how entirely alone in the world she now stood. 

That good lady soothed and comforted Lettice to the 
best of her ability, and when the girl became a little 
calmer, Mrs. Bopps gave her to understand that she could 
have her own old room on the second floor, if that would 
suit her. The landlady had always been fond of and kind 
to the motherless child in the days when she and her 
grandfather had lodged with her, and they had resided 
in the house for hard upon three years. 

Lettice dried her eyes, and then had to submit to much 
questioning on Mrs. Bopps's past, as to how things had 
fared with her lately. The jolly landlady meant well, yet 
could not refrain from some sly inquiries as to whether 
such a pretty girl had not attracted a lover to her side by 
this ; but the tears in Lettice's eyes, and her troubled face, 
warning her from pursuing such badinage. After some 
little further conversation Lettice rose and declared she 
must return home ; and having arranged to take posses- 
sion of her room on the morrow, bade her friend good 

much relieved in mind as she threaded her 

224 False Cards. 

way back to Baker Street — all was settled now, and to- 
morrow she would disappear from Reginald's ken, and be 
lost to him for ever. A shudder ran through the girl's 
frame at the thought. She was never to see him more ! 
For his sake, to save him from the evil that his love for 
her promised to bring upon him, she was going to vanish 
utterly, amidst the wilds of the huge Babylon, leaving 
behind but a vile stigma on her name ; and then, as she 
reflected on her utter loneliness, her lips quivered. Brave 
heart as Lettice had, she could but wonder a little what 
was to become of her. 

She was astir by times the next morning, and busied 
herself in packing up her things. Her grandfather's 
books and papers, too, took some time to put together. 
Lettice could not repress a shiver as she moved about the 
old rooms, and thought how a bare three weeks ago, she 
had given Reginald that cup of coffee before his departure. 
She still seemed to hear the sharp click of the scissors as 
that tress of her hair fell upon the carpet, to feel his 
farewell kiss upon her cheek. What sunshine all was 
then ! — what desolation now ! All was finished at last, 
and, sending for the landlady, Lettice announced her 
sudden departure. Manifold were that lady's ejaculations 
of astonishment, and more than one curious interroga- 
tion did she hazard concerning such hasty resolution on 
Miss Cheslett's part ; but Lettice was very reticent, and 
replied merely that she was going to stay with an old 
friend for some time. 

Having settled her bill, Lettice sat down to rest. One 
thing only remained to be done, but that was by no 
means the easiest of all the tasks she had set herself that 
morning. She must write one last letter to Reginald, 
and the writing of that letter, she knew, would cost her 
much anguish, and wring her heart-strings sore. 

It is no light matter for a woman passionately in love 
to say a final farewell to the object of that love at any 
time. But picture to yourself a mere girl like Lettice — 
her fair fame already stained through that honest love 
of hers, now called upon to tear it up by the very roots ! 
She has no sympathizing friends nor relations to pour 
words of comfort into her ears, to solace her in her 

Alone in the World. 225 

trouble, to mitigate her grief. She must face her sorrow 
single-handed, as she best may. 

For some time she ponders over that letter — at last 
she takes her seat at the table, and dips her pen in ink. 
Four or five times does she write rapidly for a few 
minutes, then stop and tear the sheet into the smallest 
possible fragments. But at last she seems more satisfied, 
and the pen traverses the paper in steady and continuous 

" I must say good-bye," she wrote, " though my heart 
tells me it were better not — that it were best I should 
disappear, and leave not a line behind me. But that, 
Reginald, is more than I can bear. You must, at all 
events, know why I fly from you. They tell me your 
family would cast you off, if you dared to think of marry- 
ing me — that you are already pledged to another, that I 
should but bring ruin on your future. I could not do 
that — I love you too well. If we part, dearest, it is for 
your good ; better that I should suffer alone than become 
a mill-stone round your neck. How sweet to me has 
been the treasure of your love, you will never know. I 
cannot tell it, nor make you understand what it was to 
me. It is gone now. I must never see you more, and 
bear my sorrow as I best may — one thing only I ask at 
at your hands ; slander is busy with my name, and has 
linked it foully with yours ; you will do me justice — will 
you not ? — and contradict that vile falsehood, as far as is 
within your power. You should have spared me this ; 
you knew how ignorant of the world's ways I was, and 
ought to have guarded the fame of one innocent of all, 
save love for you. 

" Was it fair to me, Reginald, to win my heart while 
you were bound to another ? And yet I cannot blame 
you. I believe I had your love, though that other might 
hold your promise. I like to think so — it is some solace 
to me now to dream that your love was mine for a little, 
happen what may. I think I could have been a good 
wife to you, but it is useless to muse on what might 
have been. They have made me see but too clearly that 
we must part. Pity me a little, Reginald, for my future 
looks so dreary that I hardly dare to think of it. I 

32b False Cards. 

scarce know what I write, for my eyes are blind with 
weeping. I would fain tell you all that has happened, 
but I have promised not. God bless you, my dearest ! 
In memory of some wrong that you have done her, 
perhaps unwittingly, think sometimes of one who can 
still only sign herself your own 

" Lettice." 

This written, and addressed to " Reginald Holbourne, 
Esq.," Lettice rang the bell, and ordered a cab. She 
placed her letter in a conspicuous place on the mantel- 
piece, and, moreover, exhorted Sarah to call the atten- 
tion of the proprietor of the rooms to it when he returned 
from abroad. Then she bade adieu to her landlady and 
the afflicted Sarah, seated herself in the midst of her 
belongings, and directed the cabman to drive to Farring- 
don Street Station. She was not exactly going there, 
but she wished to leave behind no clue to her new resi- 
dence. In pursuance of this scheme, Lettice had herself 
and her boxes deposited at Farringdon Street and dis- 
missed her cab. Taking a fresh one, after a little, she 
drove to Mrs. Bopps's, and deemed she had effectually 
severed herself from all whom she had known the last 
two years. 



SHORT, chopping sea. A heavy, turbulent, 
south-westerly gale, blowing noisily up channel, 
and rolling the vexed waters before it into a 
sheet of foam, causing the fretting waves to 
lash and break in fitful indignation at the fierce pressure 
it puts upon their caprices, forcing them back upon their 
tidal impetus with a blustering might, at which they 
rebel savagely, and toss their white crests aloft in im- 
potent derision. For the wind is master of the walers, 
vainly though the latter would repudiate the yoke. A 
steamer, pitching, lurching, and driving, makes her way 
heavily through the seething cauldron. But one pas- 
senger is on deck, for it is " a naughty night to swim in," 
although it is fine over-head. The moon flashes out 
ever and anon, but the skipper prognosticates heavy 
rain so soon as the wind shall drop. It is an ugly time 
for even a sailor to pace the deck. The steamer groans 
and labours like one in heavy travail. Ships complain 
in their trouble with much vociferation, and almost 
shriek in their final agonies. They die as if invested with 
human attributes. When they perish silently, as in case 
of being waterlogged, &c, it is exactly like mortification 
setting in with man. They depart in a weird silence 
painful to witness. 

But the sturdy steamer that we are at present watch- 

228 False Cards, 

ing holds her own bravely ; she buries her nose in the 
waves with a grunt of defiance, albeit she cannot refrain 
from a cry of anguish as the angry waters crash heavily 
on her quarter, and come streaming over her decks in a 
flood of glittering spray. But she picks herself up gal- 
lantly, once more boldly faces her antagonists, and 
responds cheerfully to the dull thud and measured stroke 
of her powerful engines. If she herself makes moan 
about her voyage, we may safely conclude that there are 
dire cries of distress from the freight of humanity with 
which she is laden. Such have chiefly ceased now. The 
state of collapse has set in with most of these hapless 
victims. They are past proclamation of their sufferings, 
and would be content to be drowned forthwith ; life, as 
at present constituted, offers but slight attraction. " Put 
me on shore or beneath the billow — anywhere, any- 
thing ! — but rescue me from this accursed steamer ! " 
Yet a few hours more and these despairing fragments of 
humanity shall be vociferous for ham, eggs, and buttered 

The traveller who, wrapped in thick pea-coat, and 
with travelling-cap drawn close over his brows, so deter- 
minedly kept the deck, was cause of marvel to the ship's 
officers. Once or twice they had respectfully recom- 
mended him to go below ; but he curtly rejected the 
advice, and might be seen at times tumbling in the lee- 
scuppers, anon clinging to the weather-rigging, then 
again making a staggering effort to pace the quarter- 
deck, the last proceeding usually producing a repetition 
of the first. He was wet, drenched indeed, but seemed 
to heed it not ; apparently he would do anything rather 
remain still — he was unquiet as the fabled Hebrew. His 
extreme restlessness attracted the attention of the 
skipper, who drew no favourable augury therefrom. 
He, the Captain, had carried across a felonious levanter 
or two in his time, and that excessive inquietude he 
deemed rather characteristic of the class. He foresaw a 
couple of detective officers greeting their arrival, and 
his unquiet passenger invested with a pair of handcuffs, 
some few minutes after they should come alongside the 
pier at Dover, 

Home A cam. 


But he was wrong. That restless passenger is 
Reginald Holbourne, returning from Frankfort sick at 
heart — Reginald Holbourne so changed from the weak, 
vacilating man we saw leave Baker Street some months 
ago, that in character we shall have some difficulty in 
identifying him. For the last month Reginald has 
written letter after letter to Lettice, and received not a 
syllable in reply. In that month he has come to com- 
prehend that this girl's love means to him everything. 
He is ready now to defy his father, Marion, or aught 
else in defence of that love, and recks little what the 
consequences may be. Fiercely had he chafed over his 
detention at Frankfort. But the business he had been 
sent upen was tedious in its details, and it was impos- 
sible for him to leave that city until the final arrange- 
ments were completed. What had happened to 
Lettice ? Her last letter had told him of her grand- 
father's sudden death, and how she was left alone in 
the world. Since that, not a line has reached him. 
What can it all mean ? Has she, too, been struck down 
by the destroyer ? The thought makes his brain reel. 
But how otherwise explain her silence ? That last letter 
overflowed with love and tenderness ; what has paralysed 
the writer's pen. He is hurrying home, with the chill of 
impending evil striking heavy at his heart. No, he does 
not think, thank Heaven, that she is gone from this 
world. Her farewell message would have reached him 
ere this had it been so. He feels that Lettice would 
have whispered such with her dying lips into some 
friendly ear before death sealed them for ever. But 
some one has poisoned her mind against him. Her in- 
experience has been practised on. By whom ? Who 
could possibly have an object in interfering between 
them ? And once more Reginald dismisses this, as he 
has a score of other conjectures. Will this miserable 
steamer never reach Dover ? Was there ever such a tub 
employed in the carriage of passengers ? Did man ever 
encounter such accursed weather as it was his lot to 
meet with ? 

Thus did Reginald fret and fume during his transit 
across the tumultuous channel; but at last the tall 

230 False Cards, 

chalky cliffs are visible through the haze, and the grey 
old CastL can be faintly discerned when the moon 
glimmers out for a few minutes. That vexed passage is 
well-nigh over. Though the sea runs heavy round the 
Foreland, and the steamer groans dismally over her un- 
courteous reception, she shall rest at peace under shelter of 
the Admiralty pier in a little while now. With slowed 
engines, amidst incoherent shouts from porters and hotel 
touts, the steamer is warped alongside that colossal quay. 
The hand-railed plank is run quickly across her gang- 
way, and all the confusion incidental to a disembarkation 
is immediately in full swing. With cadaverous counte- 
nance, and in a state of more or less prostration, the 
miserable passengers crawl from the dark cells that have 
witnessed their agonies, appear on deck, and feebly en- 
deavour to claim their luggage, and indicate their 
wishes respecting it.. Many feel that a couch without 
motion represents Elysium to them at present, and are 
borne off to the Lord Warden Hotel helpless and un- 

But Reginald is not of these ; and having, after the 
use of much violent language, laid hands upon his 
baggage, he proceeds at once to the railway. He tries 
to sleep as the train whirls him towards London, but he 
is wet, cold, and wretched. Racked with the thoughts 
of what can have happened to Lettice : feverishly 
anxious to be once more in Baker Street. Sleep is not 
for such as he. The capricious god favours not those 
who woo him as a mere refuge from trouble and anxiety. 

Have we not all experienced this ? — when oblivion for 
awhile from grief or care would be so delicious ; when 
we so crave for a few hours to lay down our burden and 
rest ; when, worn with sorrow, harassed by the fierce and 
unsuccessful struggle with life, we thirst for a little to 
forget all and be at peace. Can we then ever sleep ? 
Tired we may be, but our weary head tosses from side 
to side on our unquiet pillow, and we cry querulously, 
" Sleep is granted only to the happy ! " To the miser- 
able is meted out wakefulness, memory, and self-accusa- 
tion. And in those open-eyed hours of the night what 
weird, ugly shapes those shortcomings of ours take upon 

Home Again. 23 1 

themselves — squandered time, squandered money, squan- 
dered opportunity, confront us like remorseless furies 
M'ith their jeers and jibes of derision; tell us we are 
weak, purposeless, wanting in pith of character, and 
shall never more be of account in this world ; that our 
chance has been and shall never come more. Bitter 
reflections are wont to gather round the sleepless pillow, 
and happy is he who can bear such enforced meditation 
with equanimity. 

Reginald shared the usual fate of such anxious wooing 

o o 

of the poppy-crowned deity. He fell into a fitful dog- 
slumber some fifteen minutes before he reached Charing 
Cross, and woke with a shiver when called upon for his 
ticket. It was early morning as he threw himself into 
a cab, and drove rapidly to Baker Street. Small sign of 
vitality is as yet visible at his own domicile, but that 
troubles him little ; he lets himself in with his pass-key, 
makes his way upstairs to his own rooms, enters, and 
throws open the shutters. 

The first glance of unwedded man, on return to his 
peculiar stronghold after absence, is in search of corres- 
pondence. It may be with anxiety, with hope, with 
dread, with indifference, but his first look around the 
rooms of which he is master is for letters. Reginald, as 
may be readily supposed, was not likely to prove an ex- 
ception to this rule. A small pile of these lay upon the 
writing-table. He runs his eye over the superscriptions 
in search of that one hand-writing which alone he so 
longs, yet half fears, to see, and throws them contemp- 
tuousty down again. Lettice's delicate but somewhat 
irregular caligraphy is not among them. He gazes 
moodily out of the window, wonders whether the morn- 
ing is yet far advanced enough to justify him in ringing 
his bell, in order that he may cross-examine Sarah con- 
cerning Miss Cheslett's health, &c. In pursuance of this 
latter train of thought, he turns and glances mechan- 
ically at the clock, and becomes aware that there is 
another letter still awaiting his attention. One glance 
at the handwriting suffices, and in another second he is 
absorbed in the perusal of Lettice's farewell. As he 
read, his face darkened ; a light came into his eyes that 

232 False Cards. 

neither friend nor foe of Reginald Holbourne's had ever 
seen yet. With still lowering brow, he read it through 
a second time, and as he finished, a savage expletive 
escaped his lips. 

" I'd give two years of my life," he muttered, " to 
know who ' they' may be upon this particular occasion. 
If ' they ' happens to be anybody but my own father, 
there will be a heavy account to settle with me for this 
uncalled-for interposition. I begin to understand it all 
now. Accused of shame, poor child, through my 
criminal carelessness regarding her good name — pressure 
put upon her that her marriage with me would be my 
ruin — crushed and dispirited by her grandfather's death 
— there would be small difficulty in bending her to their 
will ! She has, of course, left this, but I daresay the people 
here know pretty well where she has gone to. Lettice, 
my darling, I must have you unsay all that letter before 
the sun sets." And then once more Reginald relapsed 
into angry speculation as to who it was that could have 
seen and imparted all this knowledge to Lettice, and 
exacted a promise from her not to betray their name. 

This puzzles Reginald amazingly. He had deemed his 
intimacy with Miss Cheslett unknown to any of his rela- 
tions. True, he was not blind to the fact that many of 
his town acquaintances had cast most significant glances 
when they had encounted him walking with Lettice. 
His face flushes as he thinks how, in pursuance of his 
own selfish passion, he has allowed her fair fame to be 
suspected. But whatever they might think, what could 
justify them — what reason could they have for inter- 
fering ? No, it was no acquaintance who had taken this 
extraordinary step, and of intimates Reginald had so 
few. Charlie Collingham was perhaps as great a chum 
as he had, but he and Charlie met but seldom ; their 
paths in life were so very different. It was doubtful if 
Charlie had ever even heard of Lettice's existence. 

But by this time the sun stands so high in the heavens 
that he has no further compunction about the disturb- 
ance of the house, and rings for Sarah accordingly. From 
that damsel he extracts the facts that a lady called upon 
Miss Lettice just after her grandfather's death — that 

Home Again. 233 

Miss Lettice seemed very much put out, and went away 
quite suddenly the next day but one, leaving a letter for 
him against the clock. 

'' Yes, he has got it. What was the lady like ? " 

But on this point Sarah becomes unreliable. She was 
a real lady, and beautifully dressed. No, she didn't see 
her face — at least hardly — the lady kept her veil down 
when she spoke to her. Was she fair or dark ? She 
thought fair, but couldn't exactly say. She wasn't sure. 
Where had Miss Lettice gone ? She didn't know-^missus 
might know, but she didn't think she did. 

Sarah proved right in her conjecture. The landlady 
was also in complete ignorance as to whither Lettice had 
departed. Reginald was much perturbed at this intelli- 
gence. He had deemed there would be no difficulty 
about ascertaining Miss Cheslett's new address, and would 
not believe at first that Lettice had disappeared and left 
no trace behind her. But further inquiry proved only 
too confirmatory of this. After considerable research, he 
at last discovered the cabman who had carried away 
Lettice, but that worthy could only impart that he had 
driven the lady to Farringdon Station. Reginald drove 
thither, but near a month had elapsed, and he could 
make nothing out of the cabmen or officials there. " A 
good many young ladies with luggage had come and gone 
— they were always coming and going," a misanthropical 
porter informed him, since the date he mentioned. 

Sick at heart and sore distressed, Reginald drove back 
to his lodgings. He had grown wonderfully in earnest 
about this love of his, and a sullen determination never 
to abandon it now possessed him. In a hazy indefinite 
way he somehow coupled Marion with Lettice's dis- 
appearance. In very shadowy fashion as yet, but still 
that suspicion was germinating in his mind. Suddenly 
a thought struck him. He would go down and consult 
Charlie Collingham. Charlie was an adept in the occult 
mysteries of London, and could doubtless advise him how 
to prosecute his search for Lettice. Moreover, he felt 
impelled to make a confidant of some one. When our 
withers are sorely wrung, we mostly seek for sympathy 
from our kind. Neither man nor woman ever locks a 

234 False Cards. 

disastrous love affair altogether in his or her own breast. 
Reginald felt that it would be a relief to talk over matters 
with a friend, at any rate. 

"Mr. Holbourne," exclaimed Polly, as she opened the 
door in answer to his ring. " Well, it's a blessing I'm 
sure to have somebody I do know call, instead of 
mysterious parties who want mutton-chops, or have fits 
and cry out for strange chemicals. Parties, too, who 
can't be identified on description, and whom Mr. Donald- 
son declares he knows nothing of, although they come 
on purpose to see him. Oh ! yes, Mr. Collingham is in. 
Come up, please sir. Now, Mr. Donaldson," exclaimed 
Miss Meggott, as she threw open the door, " here's Mr. 
Holbourne. If you had not happened either of you to be 
at home, there's no saying what his requirements might 
have been, in this vale of mystery we live in." 

The young men rose and welcomed Reginald cordially. 

" Mr. Collingham ! " exclaimed Polly, " perhaps you'd 
be kind enough to examine him closely. There's no 
knowing who is who now-a-days. If he's the Pirate of 
the Savannas, disguised as Mr. Holbourne, let me know ; 
if he wants chops, or shows symptoms of fits, I'd best 
call in the police, I suppose, instantaneous. Fits 
especially," observed Miss Meggott, with lofty sarcasm, 
M we know to be a sure sign of imposture." 

" Polly the betrayed, cease thou thy discordant 
prattle ! " cried Collingham, in most melodramatic tones. 
" Hist, girl, the next inimical spy who would penetrate 
our castle's mystery will demand Welsh rarebits. 'Twas 
the witch of Bagdad told me. See thou emptiest the 
cayenne castor on the cheese when thou ministerest to his 
monstrous requirements." 

" If I've more mysterious visitors to lunch, I'll mix 
ratsbane in their food," retorted Miss Meggott. " They'll 
be here for you to look at on your return, then, at all events." 

" Peerless Dulcinea ! " cried Donaldson, " forget not 
the words of the Saga, that the silken flattery of age is 
no more to be relied on than the fervent protestations of 

Miss Meggott deigned no reply, but made a mone at 
her tormentors and departed. 

Home Again. 235 

" Well, Reginald," said Collingham, " you don't often 
favour us with a visit. Been abroad, though, lately, 
haven't you ? " 

" Yes, I have been at Frankfort close upon two 
months. I hardly expected to find you. I thought 
both you and Donaldson were probably off for your Sum- 
mer run." 

" Jim is ; lucky beggar, he's just on the verge of start- 
ing now. As for me, I've no chance of getting my neck 
out of the collar for the next month. ' God is great, and 
Plugson of Undershot is his prophet,' as Mr. Carlyle 
says ; and I must stop and turn my ideas into dollars for 
a little longer yet." 

" I came down to have a serious talk with you, Charlie. 
I want your advice and assistance." 

" All right, old fellow. They are both very much at 
your service — especially the cheaper article. I give the 
public yards of it every month." 

" I am off now, Holbourne," interrupted Donaldson, 
who had been hurriedly scribbling a note at the writing- 
table, " so you and Charlie can hold your palaver with- 
out interruption. Good-bye both of you !" And after 
shaking hands warmly with them, Jim took his depar- 

" Now then," said Collingham, lighting a pipe, '' let 
us hear an outline of the trouble, for I suppose it's grief 
of some kind. Men never want advice and assistance 
under other circumstances." 

" Yes, something in that way, though not of a kind 
you are likely to imagine ; " and then Reginald made a 
clean breast of it — told of his boyish engagement to 
Marion, how bitterly he had repented of it this long time, 
how Lettice had been thrown across his path, and how 
he had struggled against the attachment he had gradually 
conceived for her, how his love had proved too strong for 
his prudence, and how he had left for Frankfort, solemnly 
pledged to her. 

" It's awkward," observed Charlie ; " but that's not all, 
I can see. Go on." 

Then Reginald narrated the sudden death of old Mr. 
Cbeslett. His auditor gave a slight start at the name, 

236 False Cards. 

and dropped his pipe. How, upon his return, he found 
Lettice had disappeared. He told of her farewell letter, 
of the mysterious lady who had visited her, and wound 
up with a bitter denunciation of the officious " they " of 
Lettice's epistle, and a solemn declaration that nothing 
should induce him to give her up. 

Collingham sat for some little time in silence after his 
companion had finished. At last he said, 

" You have made your election for good, Reginald, 
between these two, eh ? " 

The latter nodded. 

" Of course you are aware that you must behave badly 
to one of them. I need scarcely add that treason to 
Miss Langworthy, in the eyes of the world, will be by 
far the most heinous crime. I mention this as your 

Once more Reginald nodded assent. 

" And of course you mean to brave consequences, and 
adhere to your latter engagement ?" 

" I mean to marry Lettice, and no other," replied 
Holbourne, sententiously. 

" It must have been Miss Langworthy who visited 
her," said Charlie, meditatively. 

" Yes, I fancy so," said the other. "I have a strong 
suspicion she is ' they,' but no proof." 

" Pretty fair presumptive evidence, though. You said 
your engagement to Miss Langworthy was a secret — that 
your father did not know of it. How many people do 
you suppose did ? " 

" I can't say," replied Reginald. " Let me think." 
After a short pause, he said, " To the best of my belief 
no one but my sister." 

" Then, if you are right in that supposition, it could be 
only either Miss Langworthy or Miss Holbourne that 
came to Baker Street." 

"True; but then how on earth did either of them 
know of my engagement to Lettice ? That was known 
only to our two selves." 

" Impossible to say, these things leak out in manner 
most mysterious." 

"Exactly ! Granted! But, you see, my first engage 

Home Again, 237 

ment was much more likely to become known than my 
second. The first extends over four years, and was con 
tracted, and has gone on, under the eyes of a gossipin 
community who know me. The latter is an affair of a 
few weeks." 

" Quite true ; but, all the same, I have no doubt Miss 
Langworthy was the lady who visited your present 
inamorato in Baker Street," replied Charlie. " Your 
people were in London at the time, recollect. The next 
question is, what are you to do ? My advice is, break 
with Miss Langworthy at once. You ought to get clear 
of that entanglement, to begin with. Secondly, we must 
discover Miss t Cheslett. By-the-bye, you are quite su e 
that is her name ? " 

" Of course ; she was never called anything else. Bi t 
breaking with Marion is an awkward business. It must 
be done, but I don't quite know how to set about it." 
And Reginald looked anxiously at his friend, in hope of 
some suggestion on his part. 

" Yes," replied Charlie, slowly, after a pause of some 
length. " Backing out of engagements generally is 
fraught with unpleasantness, more especially those mat- 
rimonial. It won't be a nice letter to write." 

" It will be written, though, and that at once," re- 
turned Reginald sharply. " But how am I to discover 
Lettice ? " 

" Oh ! you need not be uneasy on that point. Nobody 
can disappear in London for long from people who have 
made up their minds to find them. I know two or three 
men who would ascertain Miss Cheslett's whereabouts in 
the course of a few days. But, Reginald, you ought to 
have done with Miss Langworthy before you see Lettice 
again ; and unless you pledge your word to that, I must 
decline to help you further in this matter. I have some 
idea I know more of poor old Cheslett and this girl than 
you dream of, and I will have no hand in bringing you 
together until all is over between you and Miss 

Charlie spoke very seriously, almost solemnly, and 
Reginald raised his eyes in some astonishment at the 
gravity of his manner. 

238 False Cards. 

" You need not fear," he observed quietly. " You have 
taken a load from my mind in telling me that you haye 
no doubt about discovering Lettice. As you say, it will 
not be a nice letter to write, but all will be finished 
between Marion and myself before the week is out." 

He was not cognizant of Miss Langworthy's resources 
— that young lady permitted not such easy doffing of her 
silken fetters. She wove her nets of no cobweb material, 
and was little likely to tolerate so ready an escape from 

" Well," said Reginald, rising, " I am very glad I've 
had this talk out with you. I was wretchedly hipped 
when I came ; but you tell me you have no doubt about 
finding Lettice ; and you mean it, Charlie, don't you ? " 
And he eyed his companion keenly. 

" Yes," said the other. "You do what you have said 
with regard to Miss Langworthy, and I will undertake 
that you are in possession of Miss Cheslett's address 
within a few days."- 

" Good night, and ten thousand thanks, old fellow," 
replied Reginald ; and having interchanged a warm grasp 
of the hand with his friend, he took his departure. 

Charlie remained staring vacantly into the empty grate 
for some time afterwards. Memory carried him back 
three or four years in his life, and a fair, laughing face 
once more looked up into his. Sadly he thought of those 
gay, joyous times when everything looked all so bright, 
and '' the fairy birds were singing." His eyes were moist 
as he thought of the wreck and desolation that had come 
upon him so soon after. Then his mind wandered back 
to this affair of Reginald's, and Charlie rapidly arrived 
at the conclusion that it was a more complicated business 
than the delinquent dreamed of. 

" It's likely to lead to a thundering row between him 
and his father for one thing. I can vouch personally for 
that not being an advantage to a man starting in life. 
Old Holbourne is not quite the sort of man to take 
kindly to a penniless daughter-in-law. In the next place, 
Miss Langworthy, as far as my knowledge of her goes — 
and though personally I know little of her, yet I have 
heard a good deal about her from Grace — is not likely to 

Home Again. 


stand being thrown over quietly. Reginald has a good 
deal stiffer work cut out for him than he thinks. How- 
ever, he must fire the first shot before we can have any 
idea of what sort of storm it will raise ; and crying off 
with Miss Langworthy is clearly the opening move of the 
game. Reginald, my boy, my advice and talents are at 
your disposal, and I wish you well through it ; but I think 
it's likely to be roughish weather with you shortly." 





R. HOLBOURNE, to his intense delight, was 
once more back at Aldringham. He described 
London as much too densely populated for 
comfort, and as pervaded by that terrible demo- 
cratic spirit which would make any place unbearable. 
" In the days of my youth," says Mr. Holbourne, 
with considerable action of the double gold eye-glass, 
" the metropolis was pleasant enough for a few weeks. 
You generally ran across a good many old friends, and 
managed to see something of them ; you heard of others, 
hunted them up, and they were glad to see you. Now it 
is simply chaos — a fermenting mass of humanity, all 
struggling to get uppermost. Whether people are pur- 
suing business or pleasure, ambition or knavery, they all 
do it with such vehemence in these days that they have 
no time to stop and talk over old times." And then 
Mr. Holbourne indulged in some well-rounded observa- 
tions about the levelling spirit that was abroad, and the 
want of respect to their superiors vouchsafed by the 
lower-class Londoners. Perhaps the memory of those 
impudent street-boys, and that vulgar and irreverent 
cabman, still rankled in his breast. 

Miss Langworthy also was well satisfied to be back 
again. She had not been favourably impressed with 
London, as it presented itself to her from the furnished 

Delicate Correspondence. 241 

apartments point of view. True that they had been in 
possession of most excellent rooms, and in a good locality, 
but Marion was a young lady who craved to keep pace 
with the upper circles wheresoever her lot might be cast. 
She came to the quick conclusion that it was no use being 
in London unless you had a house and a carriage ; and if 
not an opera-box, at all events license to run a tolerably 
heavy bill at Mitchell's. As these had not entered into 
her uncle's programme, she also was well content to find 
herself once more at Aldringham, where she enjoyed the 
former advantages, and was of the elect of the neighbour- 

Miss Langworthy of late had been troubled with some 
misgivings as to whether her scheming propensities had 
not led her rather too far. She was troubled with no 
compunctions — on the contrary, she felt that to deal out 
fitting punishment to Reginald for his lack of loyalty to 
herself, and retribution to Grace for what Marion deemed, 
however unjustly, her treachery in the matter of Robert 
Collingham, was not a whit more than they deserved; 
but Miss Langworthy began to have a suspicion that her 
later manoeuvres might recoil upon her own head. She 
almost wished that she had never taken Mr. Lightfoot 
into her counsels, and saw that the time might come 
when that unscrupulous adventurer might prove trouble- 
some. He was that, indeed, to some extent even now ; 
his demands for money in prosecution of her last instruc- 
tions being considerably in excess of what she had con- 
templated when she had given him that commission in 
Kensington Gardens. 

Marion had been a schemer from her cradle — she 
was a born intrigante. As a child she had never sought to 
attain her aim except in an indirect manner. The passion 
had grown with her growth — strengthened with her 
strength. From the days when she had so cleverly ousted 
her uncle's old servants, she had made rapid strides. It 
was her passion. She was continually plotting, intriguing, 
in her domestic circle.. It was not that she particularly 
cared, perhaps, for the object in view, it was the sheer 
love of out-manceuvring some other person. It was but 
natural that she shouid grow bolder in her artifices as 

242 False Cards. 

she saw her designs so constantly crowned with success. 
She was quite aware that her assumption of the rdle of 
martyrdom had caused considerable discomfort both to 
Grace and her uncle — she meant that it should. Every- 
body concerned deserved punishment for Robert Colling- 
ham's misconduct, and it was well for the delinquent 
himself that he was beyond Miss Langworthy's reach. 
Marion had given his case deep consideration but had 
failed, as yet, to strike out any method of avenging 
herself — else she felt that she could have prosecuted such 
design with much energy. 

She dwelt with great satisfaction on her interview with 
poor Lettice. She considered the promise, that she had 
extracted from her at the commencement of their con- 
versation, as a stroke of superior diplomacy ; and, from 
what she had seen of the girl, she felt pretty confident 
that she would keep her word. That Lettice had left 
Baker Street she had easily ascertained through the 
agency of Mr. Lightfoot, who, calling there upon some 
frivolous pretext, at her desire, had assured himself of 
that fact. Miss Langworthy, in short rather plumed 
herself upon the dexterity with which she had managed 
the matter. She had relegated her rival to obscurity, 
without giving Reginald a hint even that she was aware 
of his defection. She quite purrs over the success of her 
schemes, and if Mr. Lightfoot would only enable her to 
drop the bitter intelligence of Charlie Collingham's 
marriage into her cousin's cup of happiness, Marion 
feels that her Summer will not have been spent in vain. 

She is very obstinate as regards her theory of Charlie's 
quarrel with his father. She holds that he made a dis- 
graceful marriage — entrapped into it probably — and that, 
though now separated from his wife, yet that there is a 
shameless woman somewhere with a right to that title. 
Marion has no evidence on which to justify this opinion. 
Here and there she can certainly point to circumstances 
which give some colour to her story, but the filling in of 
this most meagre outline is due entirely to Miss Lang- 
worthy's lively imagination ; yet she has not hesitated to 
circulate this scandal, bit by bit, through Aldringham. 
She is not wont to hesitate at the dissemination of such 

Delicate Correspondence. 243 

gossip as may serve her turn, and Miss Langworthy i& 
continually distilling insidious and dubious stories into 
Aldringham's avid ears, in furtherance of some pet pro- 
ject of her scheming brain. 

Marion has been slightly taken aback this morning bj 
the receipt of a letter from Reginald. It is not so much 
the actual contents that disturb her, but there is an asser- 
tion of independence pervading the whole epistle which 
she has never encountered in any previous effusion of hi$ 
He writes to sever their engagement. That Miss Lang 
worthy has been prepared for any time the last twelve 
months. So little does she value his plighted troth that, 
had there been no Lettice in the case, it was odds but 
that she had let him go in peace. But Marion has not 
the slightest idea of granting him his liberty, in order 
that he may affiance himself to some one else. No ! she 
has, she trusts, in fact his letter admits as much, 
frightened this new attraction far enough away to pre- 
vent any immediate meeting between them. Six months 
hence, if she can ascertain that he has still failed to dis- 
cover Lettice, well, then, perhaps she may release him, 
but it is little likely that she, Miss Langworthy, is quietly 
to submit to affront, so that he may be blest with the 
love of another. 

Marion gives a scornful toss of her head, and her lip 
curls as she once more glances over Reginald's letter. 

" He means," she murmured, " to be very conclusive, 
and thinks this is so, no doubt. I don't know that I 
ever saw a much weaker production. It contains an 
exhibition of temper, and an assertion that he can't sub- 
stantiate ; but, with all its weakness, there is an air of 
dogged determination all through it to have done with 
me. That is nothing now. It is a mere consequence of 
the greater slight put upon me when he presumed to 
place that girl before me in his thoughts. As far as she 
is concerned," continued Marion, with a scornful smile, 
"I think I have had some satisfaction. I flatter myself 
I somewhat dissipated that minx's day dream." 

Once more she looks at the letter. " That our engage- 
ment has been a mistake, Marion," wrote Reginald, 
" has been as patent to you as to me for some time past. 

244 False Cards. 

It has been visible when we met, transparent in our 
correspondence this year or more. An error of our 
teens, that has been allowed to continue, from want of 
moral courage on my part, certainly ; most likely from a 
similar feeling on yours. Let it end. We are unsuited 
to each other in every respect. With my, at present, 
uncertain prospects, it can be no loss to you to terminate 
it forthwith. I would have added, let us continue 
friends, but after the outrage you have thought fit to put 
upon an innocent girl on my account, that is no longer 
possible. What fiend prompted you to come here and 
insult a helpless girl in her sorrow ? — to attribute both 
to her and me wrong-doing which you should have been 
the last to believe in ? — to hunt a girl, still stricken with 
the recent loss of her sole protector, from the only roof 
under which she could look for friends and assistance ? 
Why do I constitute myself her champion ? you will ask. 
Who has better right than her affianced husband to 
hurl back the base stigma you have sought to inflict 
upon her ? I had lain at your mercy but for this. 
False as I have been to my promises to you, I must have 
craved release from your hands, with abject apology for 
the wrong I had done you. But you have made my 
task easy when you cast such shame upon Lettice 
Cheslett and myself. I no longer ask to be set free — T 
throw off the chains of my own accord, and hold myself 
justified by your own conduct. It was unwomanly, 
heartless, unfeeling on your part. Had you poured 
forth your wrath upon my head, it had been just, and 
I should have bowed meekly to your reproaches ; but you 
have reviled and insulted one whose youth and recent 
sorrow alone should have placed her above attack, let 
alone that the scandalous representation which reached 
your ears should have been held unworthy of credit in 
your sight. 

" Further correspondence between us is, of course, 
useless. In time I may feel this less, and trust, for the 
sake of what has passed between us — in memory of what 
we once were to one another — that I shall some day be 
able to say that I forgive you." 

That letter had cost Reginald some trouble. Had it 

Delicate Correspondence. 245 

not been for his great wrath, it would have cost him 
still more : but he did flatter himself, when it was posted, 
that he had thoroughly broken with Marion. As I have 
said before, he did not quite know Miss Langworthy. 

Marion mused for some time over this epistle. " Yes," 
she said gently at last, " I shall answer it, and that, 
Reginald, is a thing I have no doubt you don't expect. 
I shall deny the whole of the charges against me, and 
that, O thou false love of mine, is a contingency which 
has never occurred to your imagination. I think, when 
you get my reply, you will feel a wee bit bewildered. 
Now, the question is, how much does he really know, 
and how much is conjecture ? That girl could not have 
told him my name, because she did not know it. She 
went away, and from his letter it is pretty evident that 
he has not yet discovered her retreat. Of course she 
left a written good-bye behind her, and it is clear in that 
she informed him of some of the wholesome truths I 
thought fit to communicate to her. I wish I knew how 
much she told him exactly. Still it doesn't signify a 
great deal. I can guess pretty nearly what his actual 
information amounts to, and how much of this " — and 
she tapped the letter in her lap — " is conjecture. The 
story I shall write him will hold good, whatever he may 
think of it, until he meets that girl again. I think I 
must write to Lightfoot, to make out where she has 
gone to. I am paying him pretty heavily just now for 
the gratification of avenging myself upon Grace, and her 
milk-and-water manoeuvring. He may as well ascertain 
this point also for me. That he and this Cheslett chit 
will meet again, I fear, is too probable ; but if I can delay 
it I will. With all her innocence, she will never resist 
putting the clue to her whereabouts into his hands even- 
tually — just the sort of girl to fancy herself dying, and 
having sent for him to wish her good-bye for ever, then 
recover from that moment." 

Miss Langworthy fell into the common mistake of all 
those who play with packed cards. Schemer herself, she 
never could believe but that those around her were also 
having resort to much under-play zcciA. finesse. 

Marion glances out of the window across the glowing 

246 False Cards. 

parterre to where Gracie, draped in diaphanous robes, 
and looking the incarnation of indolence, sits absorbed in 
her book. The fact that one of the objects of her spleen 
is apparently so little affected by her machinations 
rather stirs Miss Langworthy's bile, and confirms her 
intention of making things as unpleasant as possible to 
the victim within her toils. Yet that she has cost Grace 
some unhappy hours she is well aware, and it is with no 
feeling of penitence that she recalls such circumstance to 
her memory. Marion's mind is warped on this point. 
The disappointment to her hopes and the shock to her 
vanity occasioned by Robert Collingham's preference of 
her cousin, when she had deemed him encompassed by 
her own charms, she could neither forget nor forgive. 
Nor would it have been possible to disabuse her mind of 
the idea that Grace had deliberately contested the win- 
ning of Robert Collingham's love with her from the 
sheer spirit of coquetry, or to amuse herself, or to test 
her power, or from caprice, or anything else you may 
choose to mention. Marion was aware that she herself 
could have derived much enjoyment from such exercise 
of her faculties, and was supremely incredulous of Grace's 
victory being as unsought as unexpected. 

She rises, and walking to the writing-table, takes pen 
and paper and proceeds to answer Reginald's angry 
epistle. That the soft answer turneth away wrath we 
have Scripture for believing, and of a surety when the 
wrath is poured on best Bath post, there can be little 
doubt of the difficulty an irritated mortal will have in 
establishing a quarrel with a correspondent determined 
to avoid it. But it seems to be a law of quarrelling on 
paper that both sides should display the most captious 
acerbity ; and under these circumstances commend me 
to it for the production of a feud past healing, for the 
hatching of a vendetta that shall terminate only in the 
grave. The word spoken may fade from the memory in 
time, but when the biting sentences are placed on paper 
we can always feed the furnace of our wrath by recurring 
to such passages. And I have observed that men always 
keep the whole of an angry correspondence, and are 
neither reticent of disgussing the question nor slow to 

Delicate Correspondence. 247 

refer to it, turning to it, one may say, upon very slight 

Marion's pen glides rapidly across the paper. Her 
letter costs her far less thought in its composition than 
the one which provokes it had cost her lover. 

" Dearest Reginald," she writes, " your note is an 
enigma, which I must at all events trouble you further 
to explain. If our engagement is the mistake which you 
seem so suddenly to have discovered, you will excuse my 
observing that you have till this given me no reason to 
suspect so. Neither by letter, nor word of mouth when 
we met, have you indicated that you were weary of my 
love, that you would fain be free from the tie that bound 
us to each other. What have I done that you should, 
with such undisguised brutality, inform me that you are 
affianced to another ? Who is this woman that has 
bereft me of your affection ? Upon what plea do you 
dare, casting honour to the winds, to so violate your 
troth to me ? Did I not, when I found myself com- 
paratively penniless, at once release you from your 
engagement ? Did you not voluntarily renew the vows 
which you had before made to me ? Who, I ask once 
more, is this woman that has come between us ? Has 
she taken advantage of your infatuation to persuade you 
that I insulted her ? Is it likely that I should visit 
your rooms at any time ? Is it probable that I should 
do so knowing you to be abroad ? Insult there might be 
should we meet ; but I at all events should consider 
myself the victim of such insolence if this person pro- 
claimed herself your betrothed. 

" You say you throw off the chains and free yourself. 
You cannot. Such calumniation of the woman you 
have professed to love, such a total repudiation of every 
sense of honour and justice, loads you with fetters you 
shall bear to your dying day. I will not, cannot restore 
your troth to you, as things are at present. To release 
you now, would be to acknowledge the truth of your 
wild accusations, to acquiesce in the blackening of my 
own character. Do not think that I wish to compel you 
to an unwilling fulfilment of our engagement, but that 
engagement I will have acknowledged and ruptured ir 

248 False Cards. 

the face of the world. It is the only atonement you 
can make for the vile scandal that your hand has 

<( I never dreamed that I should weep over letter of 
yours. I little thought that my hand would ever write 
such lines as these to you. Has that woman so mad- 
dened you, Reginald, that you can have no pity for her 
who has loved you from your youth up ? — who has 
sympathized with all your aspirations, and dropped 
tears over your disappointments ? It would seem so. 
Your letter is not only merciless, but brutal. I had 
bowed meekly, though sorrowfully, to your decision had 
it been otherwise conveyed ; but my honour is at stake, 
and in defence of that it becomes my duty to insist that 
our engagement be publicly acknowledged, as a pre- 
liminaiy to its dissolution. Good-bye, Reginald. You 
have treated me cruelly, but I can forgive you. While 
under that woman's thrall you are no longer yourself. 
That you may never experience the bitter sorrow that 
(vedding her will entail upon you, is the sincere hope of 
one who even yet cannot refrain from signing herself 

" Your own 


Miss Langworthy read her composition over with 
much satisfaction. 

"I think that will do," she murmured at last. "It 
will be a lesson to him, at all events, that the dissolution 
of an engagement is not to be achieved by simply drop- 
ping a letter into the nearest pillar-box the minute you 
discover a face that proves more attractive than your 
fiancee's. What he can see in that chit of a child I 
can't imagine. A pretty face certainly, but she has no 
style, no manner. He will probably weary of her in a 
month. It is in strict accordance, however, with the 
foolishness of men, who are wont to deem a face will 
last a lifetime, instead of looking for the more durable 
endowments of money, brains, or connection." 

Marion's composition did her infinite credit, from one 
point of view. As a specimen of veracity, it was per- 
haps rather a failure. But the high tone that she took 

Z)elicatc Correspondence. 249 

with regard to her assailed character, and the dexterous 
manner in which she implied that she had never visited 
Reginald's rooms, without explicitly denying it, was 
certainly artistic. The persistent way in which she 
spoke of the girlish Lettice as a woman, thereby in- 
geniously insinuating that it was impossible she could 
have seen her, or she would not have so described her, 
was also clever. Her intimation that their engagement 
must be first publicly acknowledged before it could be 
dissolved, would, she knew, place Reginald in an awk- 
ward position ; and her final burst of tenderness she 
calculated would further embarrass him 

As she herself had expressed it, he would awake to the 
fact that a matrimonial engagement could not be broken 
through at the mere cost of a sheet of note-paper and a 
penny stamp. 



f|N a very plainly-furnished room in Scotland-yard 
are two men, engaged in earnest conversation. 
The upholstery of the apartment is of what 
might be denominated the early Spartan period, 
and consists of a massive table, three or four Windsor 
chairs, a heavy office-inkstand, a blotting-pad, and an 
empty coal-scuttle. 

" It's curious," continued Mr. Bullock, who had evi- 
dently been expatiating at some length. " very curious, 
that this young lady should, whether by accident or 
design, have so completely vanished. Still I have not 
had time to work the case out as yet. I bore in mind 
what you told me, that the gentleman you are acting 
for had lost the trail at Farringdon Station. But I 
generally, on these occasions, like to reckon up things 
myself, and so I took the liberty of looking up the cab 
man that drove her there. Now, though I got nc 
additional clue as to what had become of the young 
lady, I picked up one rather singular circumstance, and 
that is, we are not the only people trying to trace Miss 

" You are not thinking of Mr. Holbourne's own efforts 
in that way, are you ! " said Collingham, who was sitting 
on the table. 

" No, sir, no," retorted Mr. Bullock, with a con- 

On the Trail. 251 

temptuons smile. " The party as made these inquiries 
was only about a couple of hours ahead of me in his 
investigations. I imagine that he has come to a dead 
stop at Farringdon Street, like myself. We shall pro- 
bably meet when I pick up the trail again. From what 
the cabman said, he is evidently a workman. ' Blessed,' 
says he, ' if you ain't a asking me question for question 
just what the t'other chap, who was here a couple of 
hours or so ago, did. Why didn't you come together, 
and save me all this wear and tear of intelleck ? ' 
' Perhap,' said I, ' we wanted to hear if you always told 
the same tale. Perhaps we wanted to present you with 
five shillings twice instead of once.' He winked pleasantly 
at this. 'I tumble, governor,' he remarked. ' I'm good 
to tell it, at five bob a sitting, from now to next Derby- 
day. You can put me through as often as you like, but 
you needn't be afeard but what I shall come out all right 
in the box ! ?'" 

" What the deuce did he mean by that ? " inquired 

" Why, he thought we wanted his evidence in a court 
of law, and that we were testing him severely, to make 
certain that he would not break down." 

" Well what do you propose to do next ? " inquired 

"Why, we must have an advertisement or two in the 
papers, to give the young lady a chance of discovering 
herself, if she will, for one thing. And the wording of 
of those I shall leave to you and Mr. Holbourne. No 
necessity to mention names, you understand. I should 
like to see them before they're inserted. In the next 
place, I must have a regular overhaul of all the cabmen 
who work about that station. I can give a very much 
more accurate description of how the young lady was 
dressed than Mr. Holbourne could, what her luggage was 
like, &c. I have found out all that, and I am much 
more likely to get what I want out of those chaps than 
he was. What makes the difficulty about tracing her is 
the time that has elapsed before we set about it." 

"Very good, Bullock," replied Charlie, as he dropped 
ki.urely off the table. "There's no more to be said ai 

253 teethe Cards. 

present. I'll get Holbourne t© make out the sort of ad- 
vertisement you want, and leave it here for you. Don't 
lose time about the thing, that's all." 

" Trust me for that, sir. As soon as I hit off the scent 
at all, I'll let you know." And Mr. Bullock, having 
politely seen Collingham to the door, wished him good 

As Charlie wended his way home across St. James's 
Park, the boast of Mr. Lightfoot suddenly occurred to 
him. That worthy upon one occasion had declared to 
Donaldson that he would always back himself against the 
London detectives in the obtaining of information upon 
any subject. It was true he had coupled it with the 
contemptuous rider that they were not to have the 
opportunity of muddying the stream before he com- 
menced his investigations. Reginald was very much in 
earnest, and Bullock so far had made but little progress. 
Two strings to one's bow was not bad policy. Would it 
be worth while to communicate with this brazened ad- 
venturer ? He didn't know where Mr. Lightfoot resided, 
it was true, but that gentleman he regarded as perfectly 
conversant with where he and Donaldson had their abode, 
Was he not the supposed epicure who had found fault 
with their chops, and traduced their sherry ? A man of 
that sort always studied the advertisements of the papers, 
and it would be easy to communicate with him through 
their columns. He would ask Reginald what he thought 
about it. 

A very weak conclusion this of Charlie's. As if 
Reginald Holbourne was a sane and sober man to consult 
on this occasion — a Colin who made but the one wail, 
" Shepherds, I have lost my love ;" and who would have 
repelled with fiercest disdain the mocking rejoinder of the 
cynics — " O rest, child of fortune, and be thankful that 
much anguish and heart-burning has therefore been 
spared thee." But Charlie was a sufferer from the same 
complaint, and had all that fellow-feeling which makes 
us wondrous kind. Reginald would naturally urge the 
wh£ 03 T ent ° f half London in the discovery of See's 
whereabouts, and was scarce likely not to be an ^ t 

for the retention of Mr. Lightfoot's services advo ^te 

On the Trail. 253 

Charlie had not been at home long before Miss 
Meggott announced Mr. Holbourne, in that airy manner 
that constituted her principal characteristic. 

" You will do him good, sir," she said — " he wants a 
little rousing. His work in the Misanthrope is sadly 
wanting in pepper since Mr. Donaldson left. There was 
a time when I had great hopes he might be prosecuted 
for libel, but he's grown tame, dreadfully time — chickens 
is nothing to it." 

" Polly, my dear, since that elderly party persuaded 
you there was no such thing now-a-days as ' a heart for 
falsehood framed/ you've grown sadly satirical. That 
hoary trifler with a maiden's affections, who simulated 
convulsions of the lungs when he should have proffered 
his hand, has much to answer for." 

" You have never had proof that he was an imposter, 
after all," retorted Miss Meggott, sharply. She was a 
little sore on this subject. 

" Proof ! " said Charlie, with intense solemnity. " Has 
he not vanished into thin air ? Poor blighted flower, that 
should have knelt at the altar with him, hast thou ' 

But here Miss Meggott, with some smothered allusion 
to " blighted grandmothers," slammed the door and disap- 

" Well, Reginald," continued Charlie, " I thought you 
would drop in this evening, although you oannot expect 
that I have any intelligence for you as yet. I saw 
Bullock this afternoon, but, of course, he's carried the 
tase no further yet than Farringdon Street ; but I've no 
doubt he will have news for you in a few days." 

" No," returned the latter, wearily, as he dropped his 
head upon his hands ; "I hardly expected you would 
have anything to tell me, though I have to tell you. I 
fulfilled my promise, and wrote to break decidedly with 
Marion. It is not quite so easy as I thought it." 

Charlie said nothing. It had been his opinion from 
the first that Miss Langworthy would prove cunning of 
fence, and a lady little likely to submit to bemg thrown 
over passively. It would have puzzled him, perhaps, to 
give reason why, but he most assuredly reckoned Marion 
a clever and unscrupulous woman. 

254 False Cards. 

" She denies that visit to my rooms, in toto," said 
Reginald, after a pause. 

" Good heavens ! you don't mean to say you were rash 
enough to accuse her of that, with no positive proof to 
go on ? " cried Charlie, aghast. 

" Yes, I did, and told her pretty strongly what I 
thought of her treatment of Lettice, to boot," returned 
his companion, doggedly. 

" My dear fellow, a woman who acted in that way 
would be just as certain to deny it as that we are sitting 
here. It was foolish of you, Reginald — excuse my saying 
so — to allude to the circumstance." 

" I thought otherwise, and so do still. I had it all out 
at once, and told her I was going to marry Lettice, 

" You're grit, and no mistake ! " replied Charlie, with 
some admiration — " but what's the gist of her letter ? " 

" Oh, she insists on a public declaration of our engage- 
ment, previous to breaking it off — of course, that's only 
to make things as unpleasant as possible for me. I don't 
mind that, if she had only kept to that style of argument 
I shouldn't care ; but she winds up with a pathetic 
appeal, which is awkward. You see, Charlie, I know I'm 
not behaving well to her, whatever she may have done. 
Of course, Lettice had no business ever to have been any- 
thing to me, and then what I deem Marion's great wrong- 
doing could not have taken place." 

" You'll be good enough to recollect that I pointed out 
to you, when you first consulted me about the complica- 
tion, that you were bound to behave badly to one or the 
other, and that it was for you to elect which." 

Charlie spoke with a tinge of bitterness, for his sym- 
pathies were with Lettice, and he did not like the signs 
of what seemed to him a rc-action in Marion's favour. 

" I know all that," replied the other, quietly. " I have 
no intention of departing from the decision that I then 
came to. But it makes matters harder for me to put 
straight, all the same." 

"She showed little mercy to her rival," retorted 
Charlie, sharply ; " which may, in some sort, excuse your 

Oh the Trutl. 2.S5 

" And yet you said just now I was a fool to have 
pleaded that in extenuation. I thought it, in some 
measure, justified the badness of my case." 

" Ah, well ! " exclaimed Charlie, " you must struggle 
through this the best way you can. I decline to advise 
you further." 

" I don't much think you could. It's one of those diffi- 
culties that a man has to fight his way out of single-handed. 
I thought that first letter an awkward one to write, but it 
strikes me this next is still more unpleasant." 

" Stop ! " cried Charlie — " I [have a bit of advice for 
you. If this next letter fails to terminate things between 
you and Miss Langworthy, then tell your sister the whole 
story, and see what she says about it." 

" What good would that do ? " said Reginald, with an 
inquisitive stare at his counsellor. 

" How can I tell ! Try it, and see what comes of it ? 
It can't do any harm, at all events." 

Reginald gazed keenly at his companion for a few 
seconds, and then said slowly. 

" You think highly of Gracie — are you in love with 
her ? " 

Collingham's temples flushed for a moment, and then, 
in steady, resolute tones, he replied — 

" Yes, and she has promised to marry me. Won't you 
welcome me as a brother-in-law ?" 

" That I will, with all my heart ! " returned Holbourne, 
as he clasped the other's hand warmly. " What a beetle 
I have been ! Of course, that's why you dragged me 
down to that Aldringham ball ? " 

" Yes. It was worth all the journey, as far as I was 

" What an everlasting humbug you are, Charlie. I 
thought all the time you meant attempting reconciliation 
with your father." 

"Not very successful about that, was I?" cried 
Charlie. " That will come, though. It's Grace's mission 
to mend that quarrel, though I have never told her so, 
and you must say nothing about it as yet." 

" I am mute as a dormouse in Winter-time ; and now 
i 'm off to indite that dreaded letter. It's all very well, 

256 False Cards. 

Charlie, but when a girl you can't help feeling that you 
are behaving badly to falls back upon the bygone 

days " 

" You had better become ice and granite," interrupted 
Collingham, hastily, " if you ever mean to break the 
engagement off." 

'' Yes — I suppose you are right." said the other, as he 
sought his hat. 

" Oh ! by the way, Reginald, there's one thing I 
wanted to ask you. A brace of setters cover more ground 
than one, and though Bullock is doing his best to discover 
Miss Cheslett, there's another fellow I know, who is not 
in the force, but who, I fancy, is clever at commissions 
of this kind. Should you like him employed also ? " 

" Look here, Charlie," replied Holbourne, " I'll spend 
every guinea I have — every shilling I can raise — to dis- 
cover Lettice. I take-it, the more lavish I am of money, 
the sooner I am likely to hear of her. You understand 
this work better than I do, but you can scarce befriend 
me worse, remember, than grudging expense now." 

"Good!" replied Collingham, sententiously. "I 
think, then, I shall set a second sleuth-hound to 

"Thanks; and now, good night." 
" He is very much in earnest this time," mused Charlie, 
as he listened to his visitor's departing footsteps. " He 
is wonderfully changed from the listless, vacillating, un- 
certain fellow that he was a few months back. This new 
love of his seems to have made a man of him. I thought 
Miss Langworthy was of a kind that scarce bear the 
snapping of their chains so lightly. That woman will 
cost Reginald trouble yet. Before this new-born energy 
was fused into him he could no more have cast off her 
shackles than flown. There is a great opportunity for 
him, on that very account. She will not comprehend the 
change in his character — will be too confident of the old 
sway that she exercised over him so long — will rely too 
much upon the weakness of his nature. Yes, he has a 
great pull over her there. It's like playing at ecarte 
with your king masked, and as we all know there is one 
stage in the game when that is likely to tell. Reginald 

On the Trail. 257 

is exactly in that position just now as regards Miss 
Langworthy. May it stand him in good stead ! " 

The graziers of Romney Marsh would tell you that, in 
estimating the percentage of loss upon their flocks, they 
always allow so much for the "jump shorts." Their 
pastures are divided, not by fences, but by ditches, broad, 
deep, and steep in the bank. Among the sheep that they 
turn out to feed upon the fat meadow land, there is always 
a small proportion of adventurous " muttons," who, 
instead of pursuing their proper vocation of sleeping, 
grazing, and growing fat, persist in desiring change and 
novelty. It is obvious that to obtain this they must 
jump these ugly ditches, and a good many perish annually 
from an ambition that unfortunately has anything but 
o'erleapt itself. Such are denominated "jump shorts." 

In the great human flock you constantly encounter 
some of these "jump shorts." They only perish socially, 
it is true, but what lots of men one could place one's 
finger upon, of whom great things were predicted, but 
who somehow never quite cleared mediocrity's ditch. 
They failed, and you said, "Oh! wait yet another time." 
But that other time came, and again they appeared with 
a blare of trumpets, and flopped plump into the middle 
of mediocrity's muddy waters. 

Now Reginald Holbourne was just one of these men. 
At college all his contemporaries had argued that he 
would distinguish himself both in learning and athletics ; 
but he took a very moderate degree, and never attained 
a place in the University eleven. He certainly for one 
season pulled in his college eight, and showed such good 
form that a great rowing career was predicted for him ; 
but next season saw him drafted. He was too indolent 
to persevere with that, as with other things. He would 
take anything up hotly for a period, and develop great 
promise therein, be it classics or cricket, rowing or 
history ; but he had no perseverance, and had so far been 
a decided "jump short." 






fCANDAL is a plant that thrives in most places. 
It grows and flourishes amid the busy hum of 
cities; it does very fairly in distant colonies; 
will crop up and obtain reasonable size in an 
Australian out-station ; but to develop it in its most 
luxuriant form no soil can compare with that of a country 
town. There it runs riot, spreading with the rapidity of 
a pumpkin- vine, fastening its tendrils round young and 
old. If you doubt the truth of my assertion, remain 
passive in your scepticism, but I recommend you not to 
attempt proving my theory a fallacy. In a provincial 
town observance of your neighbours' affairs is the salt of 
existence. Life's river flows slowly through those un- 
peopled streets ; society is rather put to it for matter of 
conversation. There is much piquancy given to the talk 
that is spiced by the relation of some fellow-citizen's 
shortcomings, and when you can transform shortcomings 
into wrong-doings, discourse concerning them is flavoured 
with much pungency. Mrs. Smythson Smith, unable to 
settle her account with the milliner, is a source of much 
gratification and innocent enjoyment ; but Mrs. Smythson 
Smith suspected of illicit flirtation is a topic that sets 
the town agog. 

Aldringham has been much exercised in this way of 
late. Thanks to the delicate hands that manipulate the 

Scandal Runs High. 259 

greedy ear of that town, there are very few crimes now 
that it is not prepared to hold Charlie Collingham guilty 
of. " They say," and " I'm told," preface various stories 
that are whispered to his disadvantage, albeit who says 
or who it is that tells is a point the avid recipients of 
such hints and historiettes never trouble themselves to 
inquire. He has married such woman as no man should 
give his name to ; he has committed bigamy ; he is about 
to commit it ; his wife has separated from him in conse- 
quence of his ill-treatment ; he has forged his father's 
name — in short, scandal ran breast-high against Charlie 
Collingham at Aldringham at present. Evidence that 
libellous little town never stopped to inquire for ; " they 
say," and " I'm told " quite sufficed it to build its male- 
volent ideas of Charlie's wrong-doings upon. 

The victim of all these rumours lived his steady London 
life in blissful ignorance of what wild work they were 
making with his name in his own country But Grace's 
ears were stung sharply at times. She bore these stories 
bravely and in silence ; further, she abstained from men- 
tioning them in her letters to him. 

"What matter," she said to herself, "what these 
scandal- mongers say for a little while longer ? A few 
months and Charlie shall claim me, and scatter such 
infamous fables to the winds. I can wait and trust. It 
is hard to have to listen to such vile falsehoods, but it 
would only harass him to tell him of them." 

She was a proud girl, Grace. Once or twice the foul 
libels on her lover had wounded her past endurance, and 
she had flamed forth in his defence ; but the curious eyes 
and incredulous ears which had greeted her taking up 
the cudgels in his behalf had warned her against further 
complication of her troubles. 

It was well she so speedily took the hint, for Aldring- 
ham was quite prepared to give credence to a report that 
she also had fallen a victim to Charlie Collingham's 
manifold wickedness — that he had wooed, won her affec- 
tions, and then left her to weep over such rash parting 
with her heart. But Grace, fortunately, was advised in 
time, and dropped the open championship of her lover. 

Current as all these stories are in Aldringham, yet nc 

260 False Cards. 

word of them ever reaches Sir John's ear. Few people 
have the hardihood to speak to the Baronet of his 
youngest son. He has so publicly renounced him, so 
ostentatiously proclaimed the severance of all tie between 
them, so studiously avoided the slightest reference to 
him since their quarrel, that it is scarce likely to be a 
topic that any one of his friends would like to touch 
upon — more especially with such unpalatable tidings as 
it would be their lot to convey to him at present. Mr. 
Holbourne, it is true, has once or twice thought it might 
be as well that he should let Sir John know of the 
rumours rife in Aldringham about Charlie ; but some- 
how his heart failed him when it came to the point, and 
he shrank from risking a probable rebuff from the stern 
old Baronet. 

Miss Langworthy pursues the even tenor of her way 
calmly and relentlessly. She is still bent on avenging 
herself upon Grace, her uncle, and Reginald. But Marion 
is troubled at times with sore misgivings. Her scheming 
is becoming more complicated than she considers 
judicious ; and then again, beyond gratifying her malice, 
what is to come of it all ? She reflects a good deal upon 
this, and at times half regrets that she has so thrown 
away her time and money — for Mr. Lightfoot has of late 
become more pressing in his applications. It is true she 
nay succeed in severing Reginald from Lettice — in 
breaking off Grace's suspected engagement with Charlie 
Collingham. There will be some private satisfaction to 
be derived from the attainment of these objects ; but 
beyond that there will accrue small benefit to Marion 
Langworthy. She hardly desires to wed Reginald now, 
even if such marriage was at her option. What is it 
that she wants ? Marion knows what it is that she 
desires well enough — wealth and position ! But this 
gratification of the malice provoked by her wounded 
vanity will contribute not a whit to the main object of 
her life. Then Miss Langworthy's thoughts revert to 
Robert Collingham, and she meditates whether it is not 
possible to solace him for Grace's refusal. She so seldom 
sees him now, or else Marion thinks that his subjection 
is still not beyond her capability. 

Scandal Runs High. 267 

Mr. Holbourne's temper, meanwhile, which is by 
nature of the easiest, has become somewhat touchy under 
his niece's manipulation. The trip to London had to a 
great extent put a stop to the want of harmony so 
manifest of late amid hh Lares and Penates. But now 
they are once more settled at Aldringham, discord is 
again rife within his home. The banker frets and fumes 
over the petty desagrements which mark his daily life. 
The more so that, as far as he can understand the cause 
of these little vexations, they are entirely attributable to 
the whims and caprices of his own daughter. Mr. 
Holbourne is very fond of Grace in his way, but has 
arrived at a time of life when man bears interference 
with his habits and customs with scant toleration. 
Moreover, his vanity has received two or three slight 
blows of late, and to a man of the banker's character 
that is a source of much irritation. If there was one 
thing Mr. Holbourne piqued himself upon next to his 
oratory, it was his dinners. The last two or three had 
turned out signal failures. He was not at all aware how 
much these entertainments had owed their success to 
his niece. But so it was. Marion was as clever at mixing 
the social element within her reach as she was in devising 
a menu. She knew exactly what people would blend 
pleasantly together, and possessed the rare art of ming- 
ling them with as much dexterity and nicety as is dis- 
played by the artistic salad-maker. It may easily be 
imagined that now Miss Langworthy had assumed the 
role of a domestic Nemesis, there was small difficulty to 
a lady of her talents in mixing discordant ingredients in 
these dinners. 

She would ask Grace, in the .ost careless way, if she 
did not think that the Traceys ought to be bidden to 
the feast. Miss Holbourne would probably reply : " Yes, 
anyone you choose." When it was palpable that the 
Traceys, or whoever it might be, failed utterly to amal- 
gamate with the remainder of the guests, and threw an 
unmistakable wet blanket over the whole entertainment 
(and trust Marion to make that appear clear and visible 
to the observant eye), then Miss Langworthy, talking 
nver it afterwards, would say deprecatingly, 

262 False Cards. 

11 It was those dreadful Traceys, uncle — they would 
kill any party. I can't thing what Grace wanted them 
asked for." 

Grace was quite conscious of her cousin's malevolent 
influence over her home, but she felt herself powerless to 
counteract Marion's machinations. Although aware of 
'ihem in the abstract, she failed to penetrate the crafty 
details which involves such sore discomfort to her father 
and herself. A species of armed truce subsisted at this 
time between her and Marion, in which Miss Holbourne 
felt she was being gradually worsted, and that open 
war between them would be infinitely more to her 
advantage ; _ but Miss Langworthy took care to give 
no pretext for a quarrel. Grace's only pleasant days 
at those times were those she passed with Sylla at 

It is a glorious August afternoon. The corn, though 
for the most part cut, is as yet far from gathered. The 
stooks of golden grain stand piled about the fields. The 
creaking of the carts and waggons, and the shrill whirr 
of the reaping machine, break the solemn stillness that 
so often inaugurates the birth of the Autumn. Faint 
sounds of laughter are now and again wafted from the 
distant fields, but the toil is too earnest to leave room 
for much of that. When the eye of the farmer is con- 
tinually bent on the barometer, his men are called upon 
for exertions that leave but short time for laughter. 
Harvest, in these days of high farming, means the 
highest possible strain, put upon every man, woman, 
child, and horse connected with the holding. Extra 
wages, extra food, extra beer, but the minimum of rest 
that nature will be contented with, till the corn is all 
housed. I do not mean that the labour is not given 
with a will, but that the tension is too severe to leave 
much time or inclination for laughter. I fancy there is 
little mirth in a university eight during that dour strug- 
gle from Putney to Mortlake. If those rollicking 
boisterous harvests that we read of ever did exist except 
upon paper, then I can only say that, like the stage- 
coaches, they have vanished. Farming in these days is 
a business. Men are not satisfied with obtaining a living 

Scandal Runs High. 263 

by it, they look to making a fortune, and a good many 
of them succeed in doing so. 

There is a story told of a youthful barrister who was 
so completely carried away by his own eloquence that 
he became quite oblivious of all details of his brief, and, 
after a supreme burst of most impassioned language, 
stopped, and whispered to the attorney, " What the 
devil is it the fellow is being tried for ? I have clean 
forgot ! " I must plead guilty to a somewhat similar loss 
of the thread of my argument upon this occasion ; but 
it is difficult not to be discursive when speaking of a 
real Autumn day. 

On the top of the before-mentioned hazel-crowned 
knoll, that constituted one of the chief ornaments of 
"Churton Park, are Miss Collingham and Grace. They 
recline on the grass close to the edge of the copse, in 
order to enjoy the grateful shade of the tall bushes. 
Dandy is curled up at Sylla's feet, his black nozzle rest- 
ing between his bright tan paws — an occasional twitch 
of his ears at the pertinacity of the flies the sole sign 
that he is not wrapped in the soundest of slumbers. 
Grade has been reading aloud to her friend, but the book, 
at the present moment, has dropped negligently on her 
lap, and the girl's dreamy eyes are striving vainly to 
pierce the vista of the future. She muses over this 
secret of her lover's more than is good for her. She is 
very loyal and trusting to Charlie, but it must be borne 
in mind that she lives amongst people who are willing to 
credit anything to his disadvantage — amidst rumours to 
his detriment not pleasant for his betrothed to listen 
to. Sylla's hand steals quietly into hers, and Miss Col- 
lingham inquires gently— 

" Dreaming, Gracie ! — what about ? What makes you 
so still ? " 

" Foolish thoughts," replied Miss Holbourne. " I was 
thinking of all these absurd Aldringham stories about 
Charlie, for one thing." 

" You did right to say foolish thoughts ! " cried Sylla, 
hotly. " You should despise such calumny, and banish 
it from your mind." 

" I do despise it — I do look upon it all as false, mali- 

264 False Cards, 

cious > libel; but," said Grace, sadly, "I cannot but muse 
over it, try what I will. Sylla, it is harder than you 
deem to have to sit silent and passive, while your lover's 
character is torn slowly to shreds before you — when your 
teeth grate, and the blood surges madly through your 
veins, to feel it incumbent to preserve a nonchalant 
demeanour. I tore a pocket-handkerchief literally to 
pieces in stifling my wrath the other night, and was 
utterly unconscious of what wild work my lingers had 
made, till I got home." 

"Yes, I can fancy it hard upon you; but remember it 
won't be for long. You must be patient, for Charlie's 

The remark jarred upon Grade's ears slightly. Sylla 
was too apt to think that self-sacrifice for her brother 
was a privilege that any girl might glory in. 

" I am bearing a good deal for Charlie's sake just now, 
did he but know it," she retorted, petulantly. 

"True, replied Miss Collingham, with some slight 
anxiety manifest in her voice ; " but, Gracie, dear, surely 
where one loves that very love carries power of en- 
durance with it, and he only asks you to trust him a 
little while still." 

As his mistress spoke, Dandy raised his head sharply, 
and with pricked ears snuffed the air. Grace did not 
notice him, but the dog's eyes were turned towards the 
copse, and his nostrils quivered slightly, though he made 
no further movement. 

" If our engagement was but acknowledged," replied 
Miss Holbourne, after a pause of some duration — " if I 
was but known to be Charlie's affianced bride — then half 
my troubles — " 

" Who talks of being Charles Collingham's affianced 
bride ? " interrupted a low stern voice behind her, as Sir 
John issued from the bushes. "My hearing must have 
played me false, Gracie ; I cannot have caught your last 
words right." 

A slight cry broke from Sylla's lips, and she buried her 

face in her hands as her father's speech smote upon her 

ears. For a few seconds Miss Holbourne also was covered 

confusion, but quickly recovering herself, she 

Scandal Runs High. 265 

sprang to her feet, and, with flushed face, confronted 
the Baronet. 

" What nonsense is this you two are talking ? " con- 
tinued Sir John, with lowering brow. " What do you 
mean, Gracie, by speaking of being engaged to Charles 
Collingham ? " 

" You have surprised our secret," returned the girl in 
firm, defiant tones. " I am not sure but that I am well 
pleased that you have. The concealment has ever been 
hateful to me. Sir John," she said, and here her voice 
dropped, " I have promised to marry Cliarlie, and, come 
weal come woe, I'll keep my word ! " 

The Baronet's face was troubled, and for some seconds 
he made no reply. At last he said gravely, " Charles 
Collingham is nothing to me now, and I have no right 
to interfere with him in any way ; but I have a right to 
protect my god-daughter. It is no pleasant thing to be 
called upon to proclaim one's son a scoundrel, but if he 
has sought your hand, Grace, he is nothing else. He is 
already married ! " 

Again a cry broke from Sylla's lips, and the blind 
girl cowered to the earth in her dismay ; but Grace 
raised her head proudly, and her dark eyes flashed as she 

" I have been called upon to face that calumny these 
months past, and my heart has not failed me. You, Sir 
John, at least might have spared me such vulgar taunt i 
Pitiless I saw you to Charlie with my own eyes in the 
Aldringham ball-room. It's little likely that you will 
judge him fairly. I believe and trust him thoroughly, 
else had I never given him my promise. That promise 
I intend to abide by." 

" How can you, child ?" replied the Baronet harshly. 
"You don't intend to abet him in bigamy, I presume ? You 
talk like a romantic love-sick girl — as indeed I suppose 
you are. The sooner you come to your senses and break 
off all connection with him, the better. He has evidently 
deceived you in a way that even I did not deem him 
capable of." 

Gracie was staggered. Boundless as her faith in 
Charlie was, yet it was trying to have this scandal con- 

266 frntse Cards. 

cerning him, to which she had so resolutely shut her 
ears, deliberately confirmed by his own father. She knew 
Sir John well. Relentless and hard man though he was, 
she knew that he would not soil his lips with an untruth ; 
what he now stated he doubtless believed himself. What 
was she to do ? What was she to think ? Still, if her 
own tones were lower, they were none the less firm as 
she replied. 

" I will hold to my promise till what you allege against 
him is proved." 

" There is but slight difficulty in doing that," returned 
the Baronet, "asl will show you in a few days' time. 
But it is getting time to go in. Let us forget this un- 
pleasant conversation for the present." 

" As if that were possible," murmured Grace, as she 
drew Sylla's arm within her own and the three walked 
somewhat moodily back to the house. 

A sad drive home was Miss Holbourne's that evening. 
Little recked she of the glorious harvest moon and the 
flower-scented air, of the delicious calm and stillness, 
broken only by the creaking of the carts as they rolled 
from field to homestead, laden with golden grain. She 
had borne herself bravely thus far, but Sir John's testi- 
mony against his son bowed the proud head, and, though 
she had suffered no sign of weakness or unbelief to 
escape her at Churton, yet the tears trickled fast from 
Grade's eyes as the carriage swept back to Aldringham. 
She knew that she had staked her all. Could it be that 
the master of her heart was what his father even held 
him ! She had believed and clung to her belief in him 
despite all these rumours. But now, alas ! that belief 
was shaken. Sir John might be stern, unforgiving, but 
he would scorn to say the thing that was not. Had she 
thrown all the richness of her virgin love away upon a 
traitor — untrue to his wife, untrue to her ? Was she but 
the sport of a confirmed roue's idle whim ? 

Grace closed her eyes and shivered. No, she must 
trust on still ; and should such trust turn out at last mis- 
placed — ah ! then she would be indeed bankrupt ! And 
once more the girl shuddered at the thought of such an 
awakening from her love-dream. 



JR. LIGHTFOOT and the partner of his life are 
at breakfast in their sunny sitting-room in 
John Street. Mr. Lightfoot is apparently in 
exuberant spirits. He makes much vocal re- 
ference to " the old gentleman who lived in a second- 
floor back in Chancery Lane," as is his custom when 
greatly pleased with anything. He chips the top of his 
egg in a manner positively sportive, and expresses his 
opinion that eggs and idiots are produced in correspond- 
ing proportion. "Really," soliloquises Mr. Lightfoot, 
" the credulity and curiosity of mankind must be practised 
on to be comprehended. It is a remarkable thing, my 
dear," he continued, addressing his wife, " that it never 
rains but it pours. Blessed if here is not another party 
all agog to know what has become of Miss Cheslett, and 
to think that I should have been such a fool as to let 
that girl slip away without my knowing where she was 
bound for. As if it was not a moral certainty that she 
would be inquired after." 

" Well, Leo, I don't suppose she will give you much 
trouble to find." 

"Then the less you indulge in suppositions, Mrs. 
Lightfoot, the better. She seems to have utterly vanished 
from Farringdon Street Station. That is nothing, but 
that she could disappear with a considerable amount of 

268 False Cards. 

luggage, and leave no trace, is mysterious. I have, 
ascertained that she saw Miss Langworthy before she left 
Baker Street, or, to speak more correctly, a lady, who 
I have no doubt, was her. Now, from my knowledge or 
Miss L., I think it quite possible that, if she had a hold 
upon this girl, she was quite capable of worrying her 
over Waterloo Bridge. I think if she had a sister by the 
throat, her grip would be somewhat relentless. But, 
then, how about the portmanteaus ? You can't make 
away with yourself and baggage." 

" No, of course ; she has done nothing of that kind," 
returned Mrs. Lightfoot. " I am surprised at your not 
having hit off a clue to her hiding-place before this." 

"Don't be irritating, Etta. This, and that Colling- 
ham's marriage business, are two of the most aggravating 
cases I ever had in hand." 

" Never mind the latter, Leo, that's my business just 
now. The church registers of London can't be over- 
hauled in a day, unless you spend a deal more money 
over it than we can afford. I am getting on very well. 
If there was a marriage, and it took place in London, I 
shall know all about it before the month's out." 

" My love," replied Mr. Lightfoot, in his airiest man- 
ner, " I intend to leave that to your intelligence for the 
present, and dedicate my own energies to the discovery 
of Miss Cheslett, and this Aldringham young lady's little 
game. I don't understand her anxiety for this marriage 
certificate. As to her inquiries regarding Miss Cheslett, 
right or wrong, I have a theory about them." 

" That she is in love with Mr. Holbourne. Yes, that 
I should think you are probably right about. But you 
have an excuse for seeing Mr. Collingham now. Why 
not do it, and try if you can make anything out of him ? " 

" Because I have strong reasons, consequent upon a 
couple of previous irregular visits, for not intruding 
again upon Mr. Collingham's residence. That certificate 
has got something to do with Miss Cheslett — but how ? 
He couldn't have been married to her, at all events, five 
years ago." 

" Not much use speculating upon it until we get it, 
Leo. You're always too theoretical." 

The Caradnr. Arms. 269 

" Prosaic woman ! Know that a detective without 
imagination is like a hound without nose. Deficiency 
in that faculty on their part has enabled one or two 
notable criminals to slip through their fingers. They 
failed to shake off their individuality, and never got 
beyond speculating what they themselves would have 
done under similar circumstances. Instead of which," 
exclaimed Mr. Lightfoot, with enthusiasm, " the moment 
you find yourself at fault, discard your first theory. 
Better to conceive a new one, however wild, than keep 
hammering away at a cold scent." 

" Very well, Leo, you trust to your imaginative powers 
to find Miss Cheslett, and leave me and steady hard 
work to find that certificate," returned Mrs. Lightfoot 
drily, as she rose and left the room. 

Her husband paced up and down for some time, lost in 
meditation. He was strictly carrying out his own theory, 
and trying to imagine what a girl like Lettice would 
probably do under the circumstances. He had subjected 
Sarah to a most insidious cross-examination, had con- 
trived to interest that damsel in the success of his search 
by the unscrupulous affirmation that he was employed 
to discover Miss Cheslett by some distant relations who 
desired to offer her a home. He had formed a pretty 
correct idea of the circumstances that had led Lettice to 
fly from her old lodgings. He had ascertained that, 
spite of what she had said upon leaving, she was not 
likely to have any friends to take refuge with. All this 
Mr. Lightfoot had carefully pieced together. Now the 
problem was where Lettice was likely to take refuge. A 
town-bred girl, he thought, would scarce leave London. 
What part of the big city had she lived in before she 
came to Baker Street ? Most likely she would seek an 
asylum in a neighbourhood that she was previously 
acquainted with. 

"Yes," mused Lightfoot, "that's it. I'll give up try- 
ing to pick up the trail at Farringdon Street. I'll go up 
to Baker Street and see if I can make out at all where 
they lived before they came there, and if I can, by gad 
I'll try that ! She would be likely to go back to her old 
lodgings, or their vicinity — not but that I think a look in 

270 False Cards. 

at ' The Carrot ' on Saturday night might be advisable. 
The cabmen on the Clerkenwell beat crop up there 
pretty thick on Saturdays, and it is as well not to throw 
a chance away. In the meantime, here goes ; " and Mr. 
Lightfoot donned his hat, took up a thickish walking- 
stick with an imposing tassel, and emerged into the 
street, to all intents a most respectable citizen. Still 
there was a jauntiness about Mr. Lightfoot's walk, an 
impropriety in the angle at which he wore his rather too 
glossy hat, which savoured rather of the stock exchange 
than of the quiet, decent burgess. He was both genial 
and animated in his progress ; stopping upon one occa- 
sion to pick up a child that, having been overturned, 
was filling the air with its lamentation ; upon another to 
witness an act of Punch ; upon a third, to hold some 
slight gossip with a crossing-sweeper ; but whatever he 
was about, Mr. Lightfoot's eyes were ever alert and 
vigilant. In due time he arrived at the north end of 
Baker Street, in company with a barrel organ and some 
white mice. Bestowing sixpence on the cunning Savoy- 
ard, Mr. Lightfoot strolled leisurely along the pavement, 
while his quondam companion discoursed much lugu- 
brious music from the roadway. 

Mr. Lightfoot wished, if possible, to obtain an inter- 
view with Sarah without ringing at the house. He 
judged nothing more likely to bring a servant-maid to 
the front door than an afternoon organ. In the morning, 
as he knew, they can seldom spare the time, but, north 
of Portman Square, the afternoon organ is quite a recog- 
nised entertainment amongst the denizens of the base- 
ment story. Cook, Mary Jane, and William Buttons, 
all rush up the area steps for a little fresh air and gossip, 
so soon as the seducing tones of " If ever I cease to love " 
resound through the street. 

Mr. Lightfoot proves right in his conjecture. A most 
monotonous rendering of "Down among the coals " brings 
Sarah to the door, and he has little trouble in attracting 
that handmaiden's notice, and in beckoning her to his side. 

" Lor ! Mr. Saunders," she exclaimed, " who'd ha' 
thought of seeing you to-day ! Have you found out 
anything about Miss Lettice ?" 

The Car a doc Arms. 271 

" No — not, that is to say, for certain. I don't sup- 
pose we shall know the number of the house until the 
day alter to-morrow." 

" Only to think now ! — it's wonderful ! " exclaimed 
Sarah, in open-eyed astonishment at this proof of the 
extraordinary powers of the secret police, of which force 
she deemed Mr. Saunders, as he thought fit to designate 
himself, a member. 

" No," continued Mr. Lightfoot ; " there's not much in 
it. As we supposed she would naturally go back to 
where she lived before she came here." And he looked 
somewhat inquisitively at his companion. 

" And she has ? She's gone back there ! " exclaimed 
the girl. 

Mr. Lightfoot felt a slight inclination to shake Sarah 
for the baldness of her rejoinder, but then it was possible 
she did not know where Lettice had previously resided. 

" Yes," he said, at last ; " that's what we think — where 
was it you told me ? " 

" Oh ! Islington," exclaimed Sarah, quickly ; but I 
don't know what street, or anything of that sort." 

Mr. Lightfoot indulged in a low whistle. 

"Ah ! " he said ; " yes, I recollect, thank you. I'll call 
round and let you know, when it's all right. I daresay 
you'd be glad to hear." And, nodding pleasantly to 
Sarah, he went on his way. 

" Islington ! " mused Mr. Lightfoot, as he strolled 
leisurely westwards. " If my theory has anything in it, 
Miss Cheslett, likely as not, is living within half a mile 
of me. It may be in the same street — it may be in the 
next house ; I shouldn't be surprised. Now," thought 
the adventurer, with that intense appreciation of his own 
abilities which constituted such a prominent trait in his 
character, " most men would have continued puzzling 
their hisads over that lost clue at Farringdon Station, or 
have begun to cast about in the country. It's a great 
thing to be imaginative in these cases. I'll bet a sove- 
reign that girl is somewhere in Islington, and I'll stick to 
looking up my own parish for the next two or three 

In Red Lion Street, abutting on Clerkenwell Green, 

212 False Cards. 

was a well-to-do tavern called " The Caradoc Arms." It 
did a thriving if roughish trade in the vicinity, and was 
notably a house of call for cabmen. To its habitues it 
was known familiarly as " The Carrot," an endearing 
abbreviation which originated in the abortive attempts 
of an old and valued customer to articulate its name at 
a late hour in the evening. The joke had spread, and 
the new sobriquet became common in the mouth of all 
frequenters of the house. That it was an old building 
was evident from the outside elevation. But the bar dif- 
fered little from half a hundred houses of the same stamp 
within a mile of it, unless it was that it was rather more 
roomy and commodious. There were the same gigantic 
barrels labelled Old Tom, Kinahan's LL, and Cognac ; 
the same wooden settles, the same smart ringleted young 
ladies behind the counter ; but a critical eye might have 
noticed that the latter were supplemented by a couple of 
bull-necked, low-browed, broad-shouldered male assist- 
ants, who looked marvellously fitted to put anyone out 
who might wax riotous in his cups. 

The throng in front of the brass decorated beer-engine, 
at which the barmaids work as sailors at the pumps in a 
leaking ship, is also of the usual type. The trembling, 
pale-faced, red-nosed, habitual dram-drinker — the strong, 
noisy, truculent ruffian — the quiet artisan who has but 
lately resorted to the fatal stimulant — the decent work- 
man who has dropped in for his evening pint — the 
flushed, too full-lipped woman irretrievably bitten with 
gin-fever — the pale, bruised girl who shrinks spiritless in 
the corner, waiting till it shall please her lord and master 
to come home, and express the exhilaration of his feelings 
by knocking her down and dancing on her. All the 
ordinary types that figure at such places have here their 
exemplars. But you would still be puzzled to understand 
why it should be considered favoured by the knights of 
the whip, inasmuch as there are but some two or three 
of them to be seen amid the motley throng. 

But on the left is a door which opens into an apart 
ment, half tap-room, half coffee-room, and it is this inne 
sanctuary which the cabmen of the Clerkenwell circuit 
chiefly affect, albeit it is by no means exclusively confined 

The Caradnc Arms. 273 

to their cloth. It is a long, somewhat narrow parlour, 
with sanded floor and several scattered wooden tables and 
benches. A portrait of the late Mr. Sayers in fighting 
costume figures over the fire-place, and some half dozen 
prints of terriers of rat-killing fame, and of pedestrians of 
mark, decorate the walls. Around the tables are grouped 
all the varieties of the cab-driving class, from the driver 
of the swell hansom (and be it understood that there are 
hansoms and hansoms), with a white hat, a flash belcher 
handkerchief, and a sprig of geranium in his coat, to the 
driver of the night-cab, who is clothed apparently in 
patched sack-cloth, rejoiceth in a " gin and fog voice," 
and, like his vehicle, should be seen only through the 
shadows of imperfect gaslight. 

Holding forth to a small knot of his intimates at one 
of the centre tables, is a dark whiskered man, a very gem 
of his class. He wears a low-crowned, curly-brimmed 
felt hat, a light drab overcoat, with a somewhat faded 
rose in the button-hole, is smoking a short cutty-pipe, 
and narrating to his audience how he drove a fare to 
Bromley Races. 

" He was a queer fish that. I'd seen him about many 
places before, racing, at Shepherd's Bush, down the river 
to a boat race, and such like — and I never forgets a face, 
I don't. He hailec 1 me in Farringdon Street. ' Are you 
for sport ? ' says hi ;, ' because I want to go to Bromley.' 
'All right, sir,' sail I, touching my hat. 'What's your 
fare ?' he asked. ', Stop, never mind that — I am going 
down to back " H ippy-go-lucky " for ■ the handicap, to 
win me a couple of hundred — here's five per cent, if it 
comes off, and you shall give me my drive for nothing if 
it loses.' Well, I rather fancied that 'oss, so ' In with 
you, sir,' says I, ' it's a bargain.' The horse won, and he 
handed me a tenner when he got back to town. That's 
what I call a satisfactory outing, eh, mates ? " 

" Not bad ! " exclaimed a sporting-looking gentleman 
in tall shiny hat, pepper-and-salt cut-away, rather light 
trousers, and wearing a scarf pinned with a fox's tooth. 
He was evidently not of the guild, although he frater- 
nized easily with them, and was apparently well known 
— at all events, to some of them. " Thai's very good, 

.274 False Cards. 

Durfey," he continued, " Now, that comes of keeping 
your eye on faces. Lord, if you men only did take count 
of who you pick up and put down, why, there's five- 
pound notes innumerable you might put in your pockets." 

" I don't quite follow you," observed Mr. Durfey. 

" Why, you'd never have taken up that fare on those 
terms, only you recognised him as a gentleman in the 
ring. You can't think how many five-pound notes there 
are for men of your trade who can only recollect where 
they drove certain people to a few weeks back. Some- 
body's always wanting to know something of that kind. 
Why, here have I this minute got a ten-pound note to 
give to any one of you who can tell me where he drove a 
young lady and her luggage to on the afternoon of the 
13th of last month from Farringdon Street Station." 

There was a low murmur amid the group, and more 
than one question was put to the sporting gentleman, 
who, it is needless to say, was Lightfoot, as to particulars. 

" That's a sum as ought to be ciphered out ! " ex- 
claimed Mr. Durfey, oracularly. " Give us time to digest 
it, sir, and we'll ease you of that money yet." 

" The sooner the better, as far as I am concerned," re- 
turned Mr. Lightfoot ; and he rose and wandered across 
to another group, to whom he speedily introduced his 
little puzzle. 

Sitting in a corner by himself, with a wide-awake 
slouched over his brows, was a dark-haired man, attired 
in the garb of an ostler, if that class can be said to wear 
raiment distinctive of their vocation. He looked like an 
ostler rather run to seed, who had found employment 
and sixpences scarce of late, and had been driven to be- 
take himself to horseholding and odd jobs for a liveli- 
hood. He sat moodily smoking and drinking, without 
deigning to hold converse with his species, as if times 
were so bad with him that they did not admit of talking 
over. He listened attentively to Lightfoot's speech, 
bending slightly forward to catch the remarks upon it 
that followed, and puffing forth dense clouds of tobacco 
smoke as he did so. 

Mr. Lightfoot, meanwhile, was here, there, and every- 
where — he fluttered in and out like thrushes in the 

The Caradoc Arms. 275 

Spring-time ; he was gossiping at this table, hobnobbing 
at that, and even essayed a verse or two of a song in one 
place, at which he paused for a few minutes in his mer- 
curial circuit. It bore reference to " Chancery Lane," 
and met with a somewhat equivocal success. But wher- 
ever he stopped and gossiped, there, in some shape or 
other, did Mr. Lightfoot eventually propound his enigma, 
and proffer ten pounds for a solution of the same. 

Still the swarthy ostler continued to smoke and watch 
Mr. Lightfoot's proceedings, with face blank as a wall, 
and eyes fast relapsing into the vacant stare of intoxica- 
tion. At times he appeared to be trying to write with 
his forefinger amidst the spilt ale on the table ; then he 
took a blunt bit of pencil and a greasy card from his 
waistcoat pocket, and with some labour succeeded in 
writing a few words upon it. That done, he gave vent to 
a grin of mixed cunning and imbecility, and restored 
card and pencil, as he thought, to his pocket, but the card 
slipped through his half-paralysed fingers, and fluttered 
beneath the table. Watching him with the eye of a gled 
Avas a man who, to judge from his dress, was a small 
tradesman. He was apparently absorbed in his news- 
paper, and the management of a long clay pipe — a verit- 
able churchwarden. What with the paper and the cloud 
of smoke in which he at times enveloped himself, it was 
not easy to get a fair look at his face. But from under 
cover of that paper he was observing closely all that 
passed. He was seated at the same table as the ostler. 
Neither a word of Lightfoot's speech, nor the keen 
interest manifested in it by his neighbour, escaped him. 
When the latter turned away in order to more easily 
follow Lightfoot's movements, the smoker of the long 
pipe leant over and gazed keenly at the tracings his wet 
finger had made on the rough oak table. He made out 
ay and an 0, but could distinguish nothing further ; but 
apparently even these two letters had rather changed the 
current of his thoughts, for whereas his eyes had roved, 
over the top of both his spectacles and paper, keenly 
round the room at times, he now contented himself with 
watching narrowly the movements of his neighbour. 
He eyed the ostler's struggle with the blunt pencil and 

276 False Carus. 

greasy card with much interest, saw the card slip through 
his beer-sodden fingers, and fall beneath the table — dived 
almost immediately in pursuit of his own tobacco-box, 
which he let fall with somewhat ostentatious clamour, and 
in less than thirty seconds that soiled piece of pasteboard 
was in his waistcoat pocket. 

The ostler meanwhile, after staring vacantly at 
Lightfoot for some time, suddenly turned abruptly to 
his neighbour, and whispered confidentially, " Know all 
'bout it — ten poundsh in pocket. Say whish was it — 
sheems to be two. Take table out o' way. Give sh 
arm — feel little drunk. Gemman who'sh got ten pounds 
— zat's man." 

Hereupon the ostler, steadying himself by the table, 
rose to his feet, and edged cautiously out from the bench 
on which he had been sitting. As long as he had the 
benefit of the table to support him he did pretty well, 
but having cleared his bench he made a frantic clutch at 
the empty air, as if taking somebody's arm, and ex- 
claiming wildly, " Whish is it ? " his legs doubled up 
under him like a dislocated camp-stool, and with a heavy 
crash he came to the ground. 

A man drunk at " The Carrot " was scarcely a sight 
to make the frequenters thereof even look round. The 
helpless ostler was picked up and laid upon a bench. 

" Cut his head a bit against the table,'' observed one of 
the Samaritans who assisted in these semi-funereal 
rites, " but he'll perhaps be all the better for it in 
the morning. A little blood-letting's good for the con- 

Whethei he was better for it or worse was a point 
upon which he had no opportunity of testifying, as the 
blow in his state of intoxication produced congestion of 
the brain, and the morrow's sun saw his trials and 
struggles in this world brought to a conclusion. 

Prominent among those who had come to the assistance 
of the ostler in his fall had been his neighbour of the 
newspaper. This man manifested much sympathy with 
the senseless drunkard, assisted in placing him upon the 
bench destined to prove his bier, and, little dreaming his 
race was all but run, showed much curiosity regarding 

The Car a ctoc Arms. 277 

him. Who was he ? — did anyone know him ? Had he 
any friends there ? 

Yes, there were plenty of them knew him — Shiny 
Dick was his name. Who was he ? Well, he used to 
drive a hansom, but the drink got hold of him, and he 
lost his licence — masters wouldn't employ him ; he'd 
come down in the world, and cadged about for a living. 
He often did a turn of driving for an old friend who 
wanted a day to himself. He could be trusted to keep 
sober for a job, though he was of no use in that way for 
long together. 

That respectable tradesman then took his departure. 
As he passed through the bar, he paused beneath the 
gas-light, and drawing the greasy card from his pocket, 
looked at it attentively. It was an old cab-ticket, and 
bore, in straggling hieroglyphics, the words — " August 
13th. John Street, Islington." A twinkle of satisfaction 
gleamed from his eyes as he issued from the door. 

" Ha, ha ! " he exclaimed, in low, chuckling tones, 
" my dear Lightfoot, I think I have had a little the best 
of you to-night. I fancy I have got what you were 
offering ten pounds for, without spending a shilling." 
And, still laughing softly to himself, Mr. Bullock wended 
his way homewards. 

As for the vivacious Mr. Lightfoot, he had cast but a 
cursory glance at the slight commotion occasioned by the 
fall of the drunken man, and had betaken himself to 
Islington without deigning to interfere in that common- 
place catastrophe. 

" Nothing to be got out of the cabmen, I reckon," he 
mused, as he wended his way up Farringdon Road. 
" I'll stick to investigating my own parish, for the 



ISS LANGWORTHY, albeit a young lady ol 
much discrimination of character, is destined 
to be sorely mistaken concerning the effects ol 
her craftily-worded epistle on Reginald. She 
had read him thoroughly aright so far, and was quite 
justified in the assertion that he was but as wax in her 
hands. But she does not know — she has had no oppor- 
tunity of observing, the change that his love for Lettice 
has wrought in him. Reginald Holbourne is strong in 
resolve, at present, and having thoroughly mastered his 
cousin's epistle, makes up his mind to put an end to the 
existing relations between them for good and all. He 
pens a letter to his father, in which, while admitting his 
boyish engagement to Marion, he repudiates all idea of 
ever fulfilling it. He frankly admits that he is behaving 
badly — that no fault in word or deed is to be attributed 
to his cousin — that he has nothing to justify him further 
than that he was but a boy when he entered into this 
contract — that this boyish fancy has been superseded by 
a genuine passion — that his troth is now pledged to 
Lettice Cheslett — and that he is thoroughly convinced a 
marriage with Marion could but entail life-long misery 
upon both of them. Marion having expressed a wish, to 
prevent all misconception, that the engagement between 
them should be acknowledged on his part previous to its 

Marion Changes her Game. 279 

being cancelled, he obeyed her behest, and took the 
opportunity of begging her forgiveness for the wrong he 
had unwittingly done her. 

He had intended to have written to Marion also, but 
happening to give an outline of his letter to his father to 
Charlie Collingham, that gentleman so strongly advised 
the omission of such communication that Reginald gave 
way, and left his epistle to attain the desired results 
single-handed. Consequently, when the banker, with 
much importance — much elevation of eyebrow and purs- 
ing of lips — requested to speak with Miss Langworthy in 
his own room, that young lady was filled with no little 
astonishment. Rare had been the occasion upon which 
Mr. Holbourne had summoned either her or Grade to a 
conference in that peculiar sanctum, and Marion marvel- 
led much as she followed her uncle as to what it was that 
could give cause for so portentous an interview betwixt 

" Sit down," said Mr. Holbourne, as he closed the 
door ; " I want to talk to you about Reginald. I have 
received a letter from him this morning, which, I con- 
fess, astonishes me not a little." And the banker 
deposited himself in an easy-chair, and began, after his 
wont in difficulties, to toy somewhat nervously with his 
eye-glass. If truth must be told, he stood somewhat in 
awe of his niece, and felt some little embarrassment upon 
opening the conversation. 

Marion saw that at a glance, but she was far from 
suspecting the contents of Reginald's letter. 

" What is it, uncle ?" she said, smiling — " has he got 
into a scrape ? Has he been spending more money than 
is quite defensible ! Young men of his age will fall into 
such mistakes at times." 

" No," replied the banker — " it's nothing of that kind. 
He tells me — most extraordinary thing that it never 
occurred to a keen-sighted man like myself before ! Very 
odd you neither of you ever gave me the slightest reason 
to think such might be the case. I can see as far into a 
millstone as my neighbours — in fact, my friends say an 
inch or two farther, but I never dreamed of this." 

Miss Langworthy began to have some inkling of the 

280 Faise Cards. 

truth, and yet she could hardly believe that Reginald 
had avowed their engagement. She said nothing, but 
awaited quietly, to see what her uncle would say next. 

" Well," continued Mr. Holbourne, after a short pause, 
" why don't you tell me all about it ? " 

He fidgeted restlessly in his chair as he spoke, and the 
double eye-glass was on his nose, off his nose, shut 
up, opened, wiped with his pocket-handkerchief, and 
generally experienced a hard time of it. 

" You must let me know rather more, uncle," she said, 
at length, speaking with great deliberation, as if she 
were weighing every word that escaped her lips. " So 
far I am at a loss to think what there is for me to tell." 

" Chut ! child," replied the banker, querulously ; 
" what is this between you and Reginald ?" 

" You have his letter. I have no doubt he has put it 
plainly. What is it you would know from me ? " and 
Miss Langworthy eyed her uncle keenly. She was de- 
termined to know what Reginald had said before she 
opened her mouth on the subject. 

" He says that you are engaged to be married to him," 
blurted out Mr. Holbourne, with visible effort. 

" It is true," returned Marion in a low voice. " I know 
I have behaved very ill in yielding to him so far without 
your knowledge. You have been very good to me, uncle. 
I have urged sometimes that we should do better to seek 
your sanction to our engagement ; but we were both weak, 
foolish, and afraid ; " and then Miss Langworthy bowed 
her head in an attitude of the prettiest possible contrition. 

Now it is highly probable that Mr. Holbourne, in the 
first instance, would have felt extremely indignant at the 
idea of his son's contemplating marriage with his cousin, 
had he known it originally. He would naturally think 
that Reginald might do better. But as it was now put 
before him, Reginald was apparently breaking off this 
engagement to contract one still more objectionable. 
Who was this perfectly obscure young lady that he now 
proposed to make his bride ? At all events he seemed to 
have no favourable intelligence to communicate as re- 
garded her status or belongings. Mr. Holbourne conse- 
quently bethought him that it might be preferable that 

Jl far ion Changes her Game. 281 

his son and Marion should make a match of it, rather 
than that this lattt r arrangement should be carried out. 

" You need not feel any compunction," observed the 
banker drily. " Whatever my opinion might have been 
on the subject, I am spared all expression concerning it. 
Master Reginald, in this precious epistle, although stating 
that he is engaged to you, takes the opportunity of in- 
forming me that he is going to marry some one else." 

" I am rightly punished," murmured Marion, without 
raising her head. " I deserve to suffer for my folly and 
gross ingratitude. Let the blame rest upon me. I have 
deceived you, and now I also am deceived. I have no 
claim on your pity, uncle, but, believe me, you are amply 

There was a silence of some minutes between them. 
Miss Langworthy, with her face buried artistically in her 
handkerchief, presented a very perfect pose of conscience- 
stricken woe, while inwardly her fertile brain was run- 
ning over what she had better do next. Mr. Holbourne 
meantime hemmed and fidgeted. He was an object 
pitable to contemplate at this time. The weak, pom- 
pous, good-natured banker was desperately puzzled as to 
how it behoved him to take things. He could not be 
angry with his niece. The cause of offending in her case 
was already removed, while, as she herself said, her punish- 
ment was already meted out to her. Of course the more 
he thought upon it, the clearer it became to Mr. Hol- 
bourne that Reginald's conduct was simply inexcusable. 
He had jilted his cousin, and was about to tarnish the 
glory of the Holbournes by wedding a nobody. Gradually 
the banker worked round to the conclusion that it was 
incumbent upon him to manifest much wrath with his 
misguided son. It was a necessity that he should lose 
his temper with somebody, and everything indicated that 
the somebody should be Reginald. 

Suddenly his musing is interrupted by the soft tones of 
his niece. Marion, as already mentioned, possessed that 
rarest of woman's attributes, a most musical voice. In 
low tremulous accents she falters forth her inquiry as to 
tvho it is that Reginald is about to marry. 

" It may be foolish uncle ; it shows want of pride, I 

282 False Cards. 

know, but he has so thoroughly trampled upon my self- 
esteem that I care not. I feel bowed to the very dust 
with shame, to think how lightly I let my heart out of 
my own keeping. Tell me, please, the name of this 
woman for whom I am scorned." And Marion raised 
her face and gazed at her uncle. 

That she knew perfectly well the name of her rival we 
have already seen, but in these few minutes Miss Lang- 
worthy had projected a fresh scheme in her restless brain, 
and had determined to prosecute it at once with all the 
energy and subtlety of her nature. It presented two 
pcmts peculiarly attractive to Marion — namely, the gra- 
tification of her revenge as regarded her cousins in the 
first place, and a strong possibility of personal aggrandize- 
ment in the sequel. 

"A Miss Lettice Cheslett," replied Mr. Holbourne, 
slowly. " Do you know anything about her ! " 

" Ah ! it is as I feared," cried Marion, clasping her 
hands passionately. " I have heard of her, no matter 
how. I could have borne it better had I been thrust on 
one side to make room for some one worthy of him. 
But to be scorned for the designing daughter of a mere 
lodging-house keeper ! It is hard ! Uncle, if you have 
any love for Reginald, interfere, to prevent his ruining 
himself for life. This girl thinks to attain position by 
marrying him. She has taken advantage of Reginald's 
facile disposition, and practised on him all the arts of a 
clever, unscrupulous intrigante. She deems him rich, as 
son of the great Aldringham banker. Let her compre- 
hend the prize is not so well worth winning as she thinks. 
I have no right to give such advice, but I loved him, 
and though all is over between us, am loth to see him 
rivet fetters of misery that can never be loosened." 

She ceased, and once more buried her face in her 
hands. Her appeal moved Mr. Holbourne strongly. 
The delicate reference to him as the great Aldringham 
banker tickled his vanity, and made the idea of his son's 
being entrapped into such a degrading marriage more 
vividly repulsive than before. Yes, he would exert his 
authority, and Reginald should know that, unless he 
at once abandoned all further intimacy with Miss Cheslett 

Marion Changes her Game. 283 

he was to look for no assistance of any kind from his 
father in future. 

" You are a good girl, Marion," replied the banker, 
" and are much more thoughtful for this young good- 
for-nothing than he deserves. I shall write to him, and 
give him clearly to understand that he must choose 
between this young woman and me. I have no more to 
say further than this, that, though you were wrong in 
concealing what had passed between you and Reginald 
in the first instance, you have behaved very well now." 

" And you forgive me, uncle ? " murmured Miss Lang- 
worthy, as she rose. 

" Yes. If you were foolish you have paid dearly for it. 
Now go. I must write to Reginald." 

" You are very good to me," replied Marion, meekly, 
as she left the room. 

What sort of a letter a man of Mr. Holbourne's tem- 
perament would write upon such an occasion it is easy to 
imagine. Instead of asking his son to pause, and think 
seriously before he committed himself to so important a 
step in life, the banker fulminated a decree to the effect 
that Reginald must either renounce his love or his father. 

This, put in sharp, curt, peremptory form, was likely to 
have but one result. Both the letter and the reply were 
thoroughly foreseen by Miss Langworthy, and the formal 
renunciation of Reginald by his sire was a circumstance 
upon which she had reckoned with equal complacency 
and confidence. 

Marion's new scheme was simply to oust both her 
cousins from their home. Like a young cuckoo, she was 
firmly established in the nest, and saw her way pretty 
clearly to sending one of the young hedge-sparrows 
sprawling on the world. It had occurred to her that 
there would be no great difficulty about the ejectment of 
the other also. The possibility of removing Grace from 
the shelter of her father's roof would have occurred to 
few people, and would have seemed scarcely feasible, even 
if dreamt of; but Marion, whose confidence in her 
resources was boundless, thought it not only feasible, but 
an affair of no great difficulty. 

Miss Langworthy is somewhat undecided in mind as to 

284 False Cards, 

whether she can make any use of an oblong strip of paper 
that has reached her by the morning's post. She has 
spent a great deal of money in the search of that scrap 
of writing, and is somewhat moodily coming to the con- 
clusion that it is of no use to her now that she has got 
it. It certainly proves her theory right, for it is an 
attested copy of the register of St. Sepulchre's Church, 
whereby it appears that Charles Collingham, bachelor, 
and Lilian Melton, spinster, were duly made man and 
wife, on September the 7th, 1865. But Marion sees 
now that she has allowed her feelings to get the better of 
her judgment. In her first indignation against Grace, it 
was all very well to contemplate the luxury of revenge, 
and look forward to the moment when she should care- 
lessly flip that little bit of paper across the table to her 
cousin, with a nonchalant " something intended for you, 
dear, that has reached my hands by mistake." Marion 
had mused over that scene many times, and vowed it 
should be enacted before a considerable audience, to boot. 
But now she thought otherwise. It would facilitate her 
new programme rather to clench Grace's rash engage- 
ment, than the reverse ; even, if possible, to drive her 
into a clandestine marriage. 

Miss Langworthy was little likely, in her present frame 
of mind to feel mercifully disposed towards her cousin ; 
but, to do her justice, she looked upon it as tolerably 
certain that Charlie Collingham had no wife alive at 
present — that either death, or something else, had invali- 
dated that marriage of which she now held the certificate. 
It might be he had ascertained that this woman to whom 
he had bound himself in his boyhood was already a wife, 
and had contracted a bigamous alliance with himself ; or 
she might have died. That Marion did not pretend to 
know; but she held him at all events, clear of such 
incumbrance now. 

"Yes," she mused, " the sooner she and Charlie Colling- 
ham make a match of it the better. That will at all 
events leave me mistress here. Reginald, I think, will 
pay pretty dearly for his behaviour to me, and is not 
likely to set foot in Aldringham for many a long day. 
And"' dear Grace's ' wedding is likely to be a flitting for 

Ma nun L'liangcs her Uame. 285 

good, I flatter myself;" and Marion's lip curled con- 
temptuously as she thought of herself once more firmly 
reinstated as the banker's housekeeper. "I must be the 
veriest fool ever created if I can't keep the house to my- 
self then ! " muttered Miss Langworthy. Still her brows 
were knit slightly as she glanced at the letter which 
accompanied the certificate. It was from Mr. Lightfoot, 
and while felicitating her upon the satisfactory result to 
which he had conducted the enquiry she had commis- 
sioned him to make, it wound up with a polite but some- 
what peremptory request for fifty pounds. 

Miss Langworthy had winced for some time past at 
the calls which this gentleman made incessantly on her 
purse-strings. She looked gloomily back on the number 
of bank notes that had been forwarded to meet his 
expenses in her service since that interview in Kensington 
Gardens. She had fortunately a London banker, other- 
wise she could not have obtained money to meet these 
constantly recurring claims without her uncle's knowledge. 
To touch her capital involved Mr. Holbourne's signature, 
as she was not of age when what little money that 
accrued to her on the death of her parents had been 
invested for her use. She had borrowed from her London 
bankers a considerable sum, compared with her means, 
and these gentlemen had politely intimated, upon acceding 
to her last application, that they could not accomodate 
her further. Where was she to obtain this fifty pounds? 
She did not know. She could not even imagine a likeli- 
hood of procuring it. In desperation she wrote back to 
Mr. Lightfoot, and told him it was impossible, that she 
had no more money at present, nor was there a pro- 
bability of her compassing such a sum for some few 

Mr. Lightfoct's rejoinder arrived by return of post, and 
out of it fluttered an oblong bit of stamped paper. He 
sympathised most delicately with Miss Langworthy's 
temporary difficulty. It was a perplexity that he often 
encountered in business. He forwarded to Miss Lang- 
worthy the means of meeting it. If Miss L. would 
kindly sign the enclosed bill for fifty pounds at sixty days 
sight, where he had pencilled her signature, he would 

286 False Cards. 

undertake to get it discounted. Miss Langworthy could, 
of course, take it up at the expiration of that time, or 
renew it for a similar term at a trifling cost. But he 
regretted to say that the fifty pounds was an imperative 
necessity with him. Marion was a keen-witted woman, 
and although she knew nothing of bills, felt intuitively 
that there was danger in affixing her signature to that 
innocent-looking strip of paper, Yet what was she to 
do ? This man pressed her hard for the money. That 
his claim for expenses, &c, was an egregious swindle, she 
entertained no doubt. But how was she to resist it ? If 
she refused he would probably expose her, and as things 
stood at present that was to be avoided at all hazards. 
In two months it might be otherwise ; at all events, a 
trifle would procure some further grace if it was not so ; 
a sweet delusion likely to be rudely dissipated. Yet it 
was with dire misgivings that Miss Langworthy at last 
wrote her name across the slip of paper, much regretting 
that she had ever entered into relations with the astute 
Mr. Lightfoot. 


T would have puzzled Mr. Holbourne to say how 
he learnt it. He could by no means have 
specified the lips from which he had derived 
his information. It seemed to him that he had 
discovered it for himself : that his knowledge of the fact 
had been of gradual growth. How he had arrived at it 
he knew not, but the banker by some means had come to 
understand that an engagement existed between his 
daughter and that discarded son of Sir John Collingham's. 
Have we not all experience of how such shadowy 
tidings are vouchsafed us. That untraceable rumour that 
heralds the appearance of our friends at the altar, or in 
the bankruptcy court, has been encountered by most of us. 
Who they are that constitute this mysterious " they," 
that promulgate these hitherto occult facts in such resound- 
ing whisper, is matter difficult of comprehension. They 
correspond with the " we " of journalism ; but even as 
among those of the literary guild, the " we " is a veil of 
much transparency, so the observer of a small social 
community will experience but slight difficulty in iden- 
tifying the " they " of his little world. 

Mr. Holbourne chews the cud of his indignation as 
this knowledge acquires palpable shape in his eyes. It is 
gradually dawning upon him that there i* much belief in 

288 False Cards. 

this rumour evinced by the good people of Aldringham. 
He has become aware of late that this engagement is 
discussed with considerable animatioi mixed, did he but 
know it, with more than a little speculation as to whether 
Mr. Charles Collingham would incur the pains and 
penalties of bigamy should it be fulfilled. 

Miss Langworthy distils gossip for the avid ears of 
Aldringham, with singular dexteritv She is delicate in 
her operations as the wife of King 1 1 Jas, who whispered 
his secret to the reeds ; and what rumour she thinks 
proper to set afloat is disseminated as successfully as that 
recorded in the old classical story. Mr. Holbourne could 
conscientiously have affirmed that his knowledge of 
Grace's engagement had not come to him through his 
niece. Marion certainly had never made direct allusion 
to it, but she had been at some pains to put him in the 
way of obtaining information on the subject. The 
banker is gradually steeling himself to have this matter 
out with his daughter. He feels that the subject will 
be disagreeable, and, like all weak men, he would fain 
postpone the discussion of anything unpleasant as long 
as possible. He has, moreover, an uneasy feeling that 
Grace will not prove quite so docile as he could wish — 
that she may possibly decline to yield to his wishes : in 
fact, he is conscious that the discussion of the affair will 
be by no means smooth, and that he and his daughter 
are likely to differ widely thereon. 

Miss Langworthy, analysing her uncle's mind with 
unabated energy morning after morning, is, of course, 
aware of this intention upon his part, and awaits the 
result with considerable curiosity. She thinks it pro- 
bable that such an interview will tend, in some degree, 
to the furtherance of her views. Miss Langworthy, 
indeed, from constant scheming, has got so into the 
habit of laying out her friends on a mental dissecting- 
table, and operating upon them with a psychological 
scalpel, that she can scarcely forego probing the motives 
of her acquaintances upon the most ordinary occasions. 
She wastes much time, after the usual fashion of these 
industrious searchers into moral delinquencies, and con- 
stantly arrives at discoveries so common-place that they 

Mr. HoJbourne 's Discovery. 289 

havely compensate for the trouble expended in attaining 
them. It may not be an agreeable hobby — persons 
bitten with this idiosyncrasy are best shunned ; yet the 
constant practice of analysing the springs that move the 
minds of those among whom they may be thrown, tends, 
like the practice of other things, to endue such observers 
with wonderful powers of forecasting the actions of their 
associates — provided, of course, that they are acquainted 
with the causes from which such actions will arise. 

Marion had already formed her opinion as to what, 
with some assistance from herself, would be the result of 
this conversation between father and daughter. She 
could not repress a smile as she heard Grace summoned 
officially to what might be designated the " domestic 
magistrate's office," and thought of her own appearance 
at the bar there a few mornings ago. 

" What have you been doing, Gracie ? " she exclaimed, 
laughing, as her cousin passed her. " Poor me was 
lectured last week ! I hope you may get off more 

Miss Holbourne made no reply, but followed her father 
into his room, and quietly seated herself. 

The banker fidgeted at his writing-table, and nervously 
shut and opened his eye-glass for some minutes, after his 
wont, when strongly moved on any point. 

" I want to talk to you, Grace — to talk to you — 
hem ! " 

" To talk to me ! — about what, father ? " inquired 
Grace, as she raised her eyes with some curiosity. 

" Don't interrupt me, child," retorted Mr. Holbourne, 
sharply. " To talk to you about Mr. Charles Colling- 

" About Charlie ? " she replied, very quietly, although 
her face flushed slightly. 

Ever since the discovery of her secret by Sir John, she 
had been prepared for this. He had sent her a short 
note to say that he had not been speaking at random, but 
that his son was married, and, to the best of his belief, 
had a wife still living ; and adjured her, as she valued 
her own peace of mind 4 to break off all further relations 
with Charlie. 

290 False Cards. 

" Yes," resumed the banker, " it has come to my ears 
that you have been mad enough to promise to marry 
that good-for-nothing. Is this mere rumour, or is there 
truth in it ? " 

" It is true," she said, in a low voice. 

" Good heavens ! are you in your senses, child ? You 
refuse to marry Robert, the eldest son, and are infatuated 
enough to take up with the younger, who is disowned, 
doubtless for most excellent reasons, by his own father." 

" When those reasons are put before me, and it is 
proved beyond doubt that Charles Collingham has been 
guilty of dishonourable conduct, then will I give him 
up," returned Grace, defiantly. " But till then," she 
continued, in resolute tones, " I am his affianced wife, and 
I'll hold to it, come what may ! " 

"Upon my word," exclaimed Mr. Holbourne, adjusting 
his eye-glasses and regarding his daughter with unmiti- 
gated astonishment, " things have arrived at a pretty 
pass ! Have you been attending lectures on woman's 
rights ? Are you saturated with the absurdity designated 
advanced opinions ? Were you not taught your Cate- 
chism in your childhood, and brought up to pay proper 
reverence to your parents ? " 

Grace bowed her head meekly. 

" And do you think, Miss, that contracting an engage- 
ment with the first scapegrace that across your 
path is honouring your father, that his days may be 
long in the land ? It's enough to send a man to his 
grave prematurely, to have a daughter who refuses an 
heir to a baronetcy, in order to marry his brother, who 
is likely to come into nothing but gratuitous apartments 
in Newgate." 

" How dare you assert such things of Charles Colling- 
ham, father ?" cried Grace with flashing eyes as she rose 
to her feet. " Aldringham gossip, I know, has dared to 
whisper foul slander concerning him, but I little thought 
to hear such scandal endorsed by your lips. Who is it 
that has poisoned your mind against him ? Is it Marion 
that has brought this story to your ears ? Tell me, I 
demand it as a right ! " 

Mr. Holbourne stared in bewilderment at his daughter. 

Mr Hnlhnurne's Discovery. 291 

He had never seen her so moved before, and was quite 
confounded by this tempestuous outbreak. He had 
deemed from her generally indolent habits that she was 
of a mild and placid disposition, and little dreamt of the 
fires that burnt beneath the crust of her usually languid 

He hesitated for a few seconds, during which Gracf 
confronted him with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes 
and then replied, 

" No, it was not Marion. What put her into your 
head ? " 

" She has come between us much of late," returned 
the girl, bitterly, as she resumed her seat. " A little 
while back, father, and I knew not what it was to have 
a cross word from you ; now it is seldom I can please 
you," and Grace dropped her head wearily on her hand, 
and wondered how it was all to end. 

" I don't understand you, Grace," said Mr. Holbourne, 
after a short pause. " Some childish jealousy of your 
cousin, is, I presume, working in your mind ; but you 
are really too old for that sort of thing now. However, 
that has nothing to do with the question between us ; 
you admit this preposterous engagement — I require you 
to give me your word that it shall at once be put an end 

" That I cannot give," was the low reply. 

" Grace, I insist upon it ! " exclaimed the banker 

She raised her head and looked him steadily in the 
face. " Prove to me, father, that he is unworthy of my 
love, and it shall be as you wish ; but I'll not gainsay 
my promise to Charles Collingham, though all the stones 
of Aldringham should prate stories of his wrong-doing, 
till I hold the proof of it." 

" But he is said to be already married, girl ! " 

" I know it ; there is very little to his disadvantage 
that they have not contrived, either through chance or 
malice, to din into my ears of late." 

" You know it ! " gasped the banker, " and " 

" Don't believe it," replied Gracie quickly. " Recol- 
lect, father, I'll admit nothing to Charlie's detriment 

292 False Cards. 

unless positive proof of such charge is placed before me. 
Convince me of what you allege, and I will obey you ; 
but till then, father, I'll remain loyal to the vow my 
lips have spoken." 

As she spoke she had once more risen to her feet, and 
before her father could reply, glided quietly from the 

Mr. Holbourne's meditations were by no means satis- 
factory after his daughter's departure. He wondered 
whether there was a parent in all England whose children 
so persistently determined to wed injudiciously as did 
his. " It's monstrous ! " he murmured, "they must have 
taken positive pains to look about for ineligible partners,. 
But I'll be no party to such boy and girl folly. They 
shall have neither consent nor assistance from me. 
Reginald I cannot influence further than I have already 
done. I have declined to contribute a shilling to his 
support, if he crosses me on this point. But as for 
Grace, I am entitled to use more coercion in her case, 
and I will." 

Mr. Holbourne kept his word, and we shall see what 
came of it. 



PR. BULLOCK'S exhilaration upon arriving at 
at home was a sight to see. He had indulged 
in much silent chuckling, and in many low- 
pitched snatches of melody, on his way from 
the " Caradoc Arms" thither. But once fairly ensconced 
in his own favourite arm-chair, he fairly bubbled over 
with grins and laughter. He had made, he thought, a 
hit to-night, but it was not that. Mr. Bullock had made 
some noted coups in his day, and could afford to take 
another bit of professional success with the nonchalance 
the force expected from such distinguished officers as 
himself. No, that was not the cause of Mr. Bullock's 
ecstasy ; but to find out that the hated Lightfoot was 
also interested in the search. To feel a moral conviction 
that he had obtained, by his own vigilance and astute- 
ness, what the detested Lightfoot was vainly proffering 
a reward of ten pounds to procure — to think that the 
lost clue had been virtually under his abhorred adver- 
sary's nose half the evening, and that that usually acute 
gentleman had overlooked it ! Finally, most soothing 
of salves to his professional pride, he had contemplated 
Mr. Lightfoot's manoeuvres, and sat for some time full in 
his sight, undetected, unsuspected. Remembering how 
sore Mr. Bullock had felt concerning the penetration of 
his disguise upon their last encounter, it is easy to 

294 False Cards. 

imagine that upon that one point alone it must hare 
been a gratifying evening to him. 

Mr. Bullock is of course as yet unaware that the 
drunken man he assisted to pick up is not destined to 
recover from the effects of his fall, and looks to obtain- 
ing some further information from him as soon as he 
shall recover his senses. Still Mr. Bullock fanoies 
he has not much to learn beyond what the number 
of the house may be. Mr. Bullock piecing things 
together in his own mind, sees clearly that the ostler 
drove a friend's cab upon the day Lettice disap- 
peared, which accounts for the difficulty of picking up the 
trail at the Farringdon Station. It was this man drove 
Miss Cheslett to John Street, Islington, and not being a 
regular cabman, he had not heard of the inquiries that 
had been made, until attracted by Lightfoot's speech. 
Then, cunning in his cups, the bemused man kept turn- 
ing the thing over in his muddled brain, with a view to 
making the most of the information he had to give. 
Intoxication had supervened while he yet struggled with 
this knotty problem, and his resolution to take Light- 
foot's offer had been come to just as he became physically 
unable to make his way across the room to that gentle- 
man, who, on his part, little dreamt the occasion of that 
untimely downfall, or thought that the senseless man 
had dropped in his endeavours to reach him with the 
intelligence he so much coveted. 

Mr. Bullock, arriving next morning at the " Caradoc 
Arms" in his ordinary costume, finds his vis-a-vis of the 
previous night awaiting an inquest, instead of being in 
readiness for the hospitality that he meditated bestowing 
upon him. Mr. Bullock consoles himself for this disap- 
pointment with the reflection that he has pretty well 
obtained the information he required, and that the dead 
man was more likely to have cast in his lot with the 
criminal classes than to have turned out an ornament to 
society. "He's as well out of the way in this shape, 
as any other," soliloquized the detective. " He was just 
about becoming troublesome, and had nothing much but 
Brixton or Portland to look forward to. It is as well for 
him he was taken by Providence right off. He'd have 

Thirty-Two, John Street 295 

been taken by us a little later if he'd lived, and there's a 
deal of unpleasantness spared all round by things as they 

It was not likely that Mr. Bullock was going to com- 
municate with his employer before, to use his own ex- 
pression, he had " worked his case out." Now, though 
he had little doubt that he held the correct clue in his 
hand, yet he had still to ascertain in which house in 
John Street it was that Miss Cheslett had taken refuge. 
Simple this, you would say, for a police-officer ; so it 
was, but Mr. Bullock recollected that his adversary lived 
in that identical street. He was strongly impressed with 
Mr. Lightfoot's astuteness, and had no intention of play- 
ing the part of jackal to that cunning marauder. Who 
was employing him upon the present occasion, or whe- 
ther he was prosecuting some wily scheme of his own 
devising, was also a subject on which Mr. Bullock thirsted 
for information. 

He walked quietly up to Islington, and at once put 
himself into communication with the superintendent of 
the police-station there. He remained quietly in the 
station, while the constable on the John Street beat pro- 
secuted such inquiries as Mr. Bullock chose to entrust 
him with. The man was young in the force, and by no 
means blessed with intelligence. A constable of the 
stolid type, whose highest faculties comprehended little 
more than the rigid carrying out of such orders as might 
be given to him. 

When he comes in he reports three recent arrivals in 
John Street. One of these is a male, and need, conse- 
quently, be no further investigated ; the other two 
are females, but a few inquiries soon satisfy Mr. Bullock 
that neither of them is the young lady that he is in 
search of. R 37, who was upon that beat on the 13th 
of July, has no recollection of seeing a young lady arrive 
with a considerable amount of luggage, but adds that 
his beat extended considerably beyond John Street, and 
it was quite possible for such a thing to occur without 
his knowing anything about it. 

Mr. Bullock decides to prosecute his inquiries in per- 
son, and accordingly lounges out to do so, keeping mean- 

296 False Cards. 

while a vigilaat look-out for the appearance of his 
particular aversion, Lightfoot. The millinery and 
stationery shops of the neighbourhood are the first 
places to which he devotes his attention, It is at one of 
the latter that he first picks up some trace of the subject 
of his quest. Yes, the proprietor perfectly recollected a 
good-looking young lady in deep mourning buying some 
cardboard and gilt paper from him only two days before 
— he had offered to send it, but she said that she lived 
close by, and took it with her. No, he could not say 
where her home was exactly. Mr. Bullock accepts this 
as an indication of Miss Cheslett's presence in the 
vicinity, although it is but meagre evidence of the fact, 
and prosecutes his inquiries with redoubled vigour. 

At a large milinery and drapery establishment he first 
comes upon a tangible trace of the young lady in mourn- 
ing. He has heard vaguely and indistinctly of her at 
more than one shop that he has visited, but the pro- 
prietors, although unanimous in expression of their 
opinion that she lived in the neighbourhood, have so 
far been unable to indicate the exact whereabouts. But 
here the lady who presided over the millinery depart- 
ment was clear and precise. " A young lady in deep 
mourning," she said, in reply to Mr. Bullock's inter- 
rogatories, " had called there four days ago, and, some- 
what to her surprise, had asked for employment. She 
was astonished, as the young lady from her dress and 
manner seemed superior to one dependent upon ordinary 
milliner's work ; and she ventured to say as much, but 
the girl replied that she was thrown upon her own re- 
sources in consequence of the death of a very near 
relative, and should be thankful for any work they 
might be able to give her. I told her," continued the 
forewoman, " that I had nothing for her just now, but 
that if she would leave her address I would try her as 
soon as I had a chance. Here is the address she gave 
—Miss Cheslett, 32, John Street." 

Mr. Bullock indulged in a quiet chuckle of satisfaction 
— a low, noiseless laugh peculiar to himself, and of which 
nothing but a slight screwing up of the eyes and drawing 
back of the lips gave evidence to the spectator. He had 

Thirty-Two, John Street. 297 

doubtless found this inaudible laughter of value to him 
in his vocation, and had probably reduced his natural 
cachinnation by much mortification of his sense of the 

" Thank you, ma'am," he said at length. " You're a 
lady as it's quite a pleasure to converse with. I belong to 
the detective police, and you can't think the trouble we 
have in my profession to get people to tell us what they 
know clearly and concisely. If you will allow me to say 
so, Miss— Miss— " 

" Manners," supplied the lady, with a simper of gratifi- 

"Miss Manners, exactly. You're a pattern to your 
sex in that respect. It is rather a weakness of women, 
if you will excuse the remark," continued Mr. Bullock 
jocularly, " to be a little discursive in their evidence. 
They are apt to wander from the point, and favour us 
with what they think, instead of what they actually 

" I'm sure I feel highly complimented," replied Miss 
Manners." " It's very gratifying indeed to receive such 
praise, sir, from a gentleman so well qualified to judge as 
yourself. But to be the object of such encomium twice 
in one day," continued the lady with a bashful titter, 
" might make any woman proud." 

" I don't quite understand you," interjected Mr. Bullock 
quickly. " What do you mean ? " 

" Only that a gentleman called here about a couple 
of hours ago — a very pleasant gentleman, and full of 

" Yes, yes. Get on, ma'am, please," exclaimed Mr. 
Bullock, impatiently. 

" You needn't take one up so sharp," said Miss 
Manners, looking offended. " I'm sure I am telling you 
all about it as quickly as I possibly can." 

" Of course ; I beg your pardon for interrupting 
you," said Bullock. " This gentleman, as you were 
saying — " 

"Was also inquiring after Miss Cheslett. I hope she's 
done nothing wrong, I'm sure, and I so nearly giving her 
some work and all." 

298 False Cards. 

"No, no, nothing of the sort," replied Bullock, im- 

" Well, he also said that I could tell what I had to tell 
most clearly and succinctly — those were his very words," 
and Miss Manners tossed her head in defiance of the 
impatience that her present questioner gave signs of. 

"A fair-haired man, with keen grey eyes ? " exclaimed 

" He was a fair, pleasant man, but I did not notice his 
eyes," returned the lady. 

" Lightfoot, by the eternal ! " muttered the detective. 
" Thank you, Miss Manners," he exclaimed, hurriedly. 
" I am very much obliged to you. Good morning ! " 
And he hastily left the shop. 

" The other is the most gentlemanly," said the fore- 
woman, curtly. " To think of a girl coming here and 
wanting work who is wanted herself by the police ! 
The brazened baggage ! There's no knowing whom to 
trust in this world, or else I did think that pale-faced 
thing in mourning looked innocent enough." With 
which reflection Miss Manners betook herself once more 
to the superintendence of her work-girls. 

" He's before me again, hang him ! " mused Mr. 
Bullock, as he made his way rapidly towards John Street. 
"It's provoking, it is, considering how much the best I 
got of him last night. Curse his luck ! He's picked up 
the trail here by accident. What does he want with 
her ? What's brought him into the business ? However, 
I suppose 32 will turn out all right enough. At all 
events, I shall soon see, and maybe find out what Light- 
foot's driving at to boot. I should like to know that. Here 
we are ! " And without more ado Mr. Bullock rang the bell. 

Mr. Bullock had concocted a very neat story, with the 
assistance of Charlie Collingham, to retail to Lettice 
when he should find her, and therefore felt no compunc- 
tion about asking for her. 

" Is Miss Cheslett at home ? " he inquired easily of 
the servant-girl who opened the door. 

" No, sir. She left this yesterday afternoon." 

" When will she be back ? I want to see her upon 
business of importance." 

'l'fii'i/y-l'wo, John Street. 299 

" Dear me ! I don't think she's coming back at all," 
replied the girl, with open-eyed astonishment. " Least- 
ways, she took all her things with her, and her room's to 

Mr. Bullock was generally fairly impassible in coun- 
tenance, but he could not restrain a low whistle of 
surprise at this unlooked-for intelligence. 

"And you don't know where she's gone?" he in- 

" No, sir. But you'd best see missus." 

" Exactly. Just ask if she would be good enough ta 
speak to me for a few minutes." 

The landlady soon made her appearance, and requested 
Mr. Ballock to step into her own private sanctum. But 
that gentleman, with all his acuteness, was speedily 
compelled to consider the interview most unsatisfactory. 

Yes, the lady admitted, with the utmost candour, that 
Miss Cheslett had lodged there for the last five weeks. 
She was an old tenant, and had lived there with her 
grandfather for some months about two years ago. She 
left yesterday afternoon. She, the landlady, could not 
exactly say why, but fancied that it was to take some 
situation that had been offered her. Did she know Miss 
Cheslett's address ? No, she had left no direction of any 
kind behind her ; had never even alluded to what county 
she was going, nor to what railway-station she was to be 
driven to. Who were the people who took so much 
interest in Miss Cheslett ? 

" Thank ye, ma'am," said Mr. Bullock, as he rose to 
depart. " It's a cruel pity, for the young lady's own sake, 
her friends can't manage to communicate with her. She 
is running away under a considerable mistake, which ten 
minutes would dissipate, if she could be but seen for that 
space of time." 

" If you would like to leave a letter on the chance of 
my hearing of her, and so having an opportunity to 
forward it, I shall be most happy to take charge of it," 
observed the landlady, suavely. 

" Thank ye, you're very kind. I'll mention it to the 
young lady's friends, and they'll doubtless trouble you 
with a note upon the chance. Good day, ma'am." 

300 False Cards. 

Mr. Bullock paused when he gained the street, and 
with hat drawn over his eyes, and hands thrust deep into 
his trousers pockets, became lost in meditation. 

" Yes," he muttered, as apparently counting the eyelet 
holes in his boots, and dedicating his whole attention to 
the avoidance of stepping on the joining of the flag-stones, 
he moved slowly up the street. " She knows all about 
it. She knows where Miss Cheslett has gone. What did 
she volunteer to forward a letter for, if she had no address 
left her ? What made her talk about counties, and hint 
at terminuses ? She was too communicative not to know, 
and overplayed her part, as they mostly do. Well, I 
suppose the trail's to be picked up again with a little 
trouble ; but I think I'm bound to tell Mr. Colli ngham 
that I fancy a letter will reach her." 

" Confound you ! can't you look where you're going 
to ? " exclaimed a man, angrily, who, coming sharp round a 
corner, ran into the meditative detective's arms. " Well, 
I'm blessed ! " he ejaculated, on perceiving with whom 
he had come so abruptly into contact. It's you again, is 
it ? What the devil is it you're looking for up here ? " 
and Mr. Lightfoot took a calm and deliberate survey of 
his opponent. 

" Never you mind, and don't forget your manners 
because you live a little out in the suburbs," replied 
Bullock, tartly. "If it's any relief to your feelings, I'm 
not wanting you just now. I know all about you, and 
can put my finger on you any time, so you had better 
be uncommon careful not to overstep the limits of the 

" That for your laws ! " retorted Lightfoot, snapping 
his fingers ; " anyone with a head on his shoulders can 
evade most of them. And you, my good friend, you 
positively believe you could find Leonidas Lightfoot, ti 
it suited him to keep out of your way ? That is too 
ridiculous. Bah ! shall we have a friendly wager ?" 

" Take care," returned the detective, curtly. " You 
have slipped through my fingers twice. You won't find 
it so easy to do again. My chance will come. Men or 
your stamp never stop till they're laid by the heels. 
Mark me, Lightfoot, our next match means seven years 

Thirty '-Two, John Street. 301 

for you. You're clever and slippery, I grant you, but 
you all make an irretrievable mistake at last." And 
without awaiting further rejoinder, Mr. Bullock strode 
rapidly away. 

Mr. Lightfoot was more put out by the detective's 
speech than he would have cared to own. With all his 
self-reliance and astuteness, with all his theories that 
they were but bunglers who came to grief and tribulation 
in preying upon their fellows, he could not but remember 
that the journals at intervals bore record of marauders, 
bold, clever, and unscrupulous as himself, who met their 
deserts, and found themselves powerless at last to escape 
the meshes of the law. 

Bullock's words fell upon his ear like a knell, and even 
now he was unconsciously deciding to cross the path of 
that legalized sleuth-hound no more. 

" What on earth brought him here, I wonder ? " mused 
Mr. Lightfoot, as he bent his steps towards his lodgings. 
" Couldn't have been upon my account this time. Not 
much use, however, bothering my head about that. The 
question is, what this Cheslett girl has done with herself. 
It's too provoking ! Here she's been, for the last five 
weeks, living under my nose, and disappears again just as 
I discover her whereabouts. If I had only worked out 
my own theory a trifle more promptly, I should have 

caught my bird. Now " And Mr. Lightfoot shrugged 

his shoulders despondently as he rang his door-bell. 

It must be borne in mind that he has no idea that 
Bullock is also engaged in seeking Lettice, although that 
distinguished officer is perfectly aware that he (Lightfoot 
is interested in her discovery. 



T'S no use trying to humbug me, Mr. Col- 
lingham. You are not yourself, not by 
several inches. Now," continued Miss Meg- 
gott, " it's no use going on in this way, 
writing trash in the Misanthrope, and fretting and fidget- 
ing as you do. Either go away to the sea, pitch pen and 
ink to Jericho, and kick up your heels ; or, if you mean 
being ill, let's begin at once, and let me take care 
of you." 

" Pooh ! Polly, there's not much the matter. I'm a 
little worried about things just now. However, a few 
days will probably see my troubles over." 

" Mind they do, or I shall either telegraph for Mr. 
Donaldson, or call in a doctor. I'm not going to have 
3"cu going off with worrits, doldrums, or blue devils, on 
my hands, I can tell you," retorted Miss Meggott, 

" Don't be a fool, Polly," interrupted Charlie, sharply. 

'' Not if I know it, my child ; but the misfortune is, 
it's so easy to be one unawares. It's quite possible, you 
know, that may be your identical complaint at this mo- 
ment ! " 

" 'Pon my word I believe you're right ! I am worrying 
my soul out about two things which I fancy will all 
come square enough in the end." 

Cross Purposes. 303 

"If it's about your love affair you're fretting, I'm sure 
you need not. Pooh ! don't look so astonished. Of 
course I know all about it. When you have so many 
photographs of one young lady tossing about, and get so 
many letters, all penned by the same feminine hand, it 
don't need a conjuror to tell what's the matter. Bless 
you, I cried my eyes out over your inconstancy three 
months ago ! " 

" You're letting your tongue run riot, Polly," returned 
Charlie, somewhat sharply ; for much licence as he and 
Donaldson had always accorded Miss Meggott, he felt a 
little indignant at the thought of how thoroughly her 
keen black eyes had read him of late. 

" Don't be angry, Mr. Collingham. You know I 
wouldn't willingly say anything to annoy you. But you 
are getting hipped — indeed you are. Take the latch-key, 
and go out for the evening. Even if you lose it, and I 
have to get up to let you in, I won't complain." 

" Nonsense, Polly, I'm well enough, and have work to 
do to-night. I shall dine at home." 

Charlie Collingham was much exercised in his mind 
about the state of things at Aldringham. Grace had 
informed him of her interview with her father — had told 
him that she was forbid to think of him as a lover, or to 
correspond with him in future. 

" We can do nothing for the present, Charlie, but wait 
and hope," she wrote. " This must be my last letter, 
and I beg you not to answer it, as your handwriting 
would now be certain to attract my father's attention, 
and of course occasion me a severe lecture. Things are 
quite unpleasant enough now as they stand, without that 
addition, so we must for the present place implicit faith 
in each other, and hope for brighter days. As a proof of 
how thoroughly I do trust you, Charlie, I must tell you 
that Sir John himself declared to me the other day you 
were already married, and still I do not falter in my alle- 
giance. I believe yet you will explain away all these 
rumours that now so torment me. Let it be as soon as 
possible, please, for I am sore tried, and find it hard to 
sit silent while Aldringham gossip is so busy with } r our 

304 False Cards, 

" Yes," he muttered, as he rose and paced the room 
restlessly, " there must be an end to all this, and that 
speedily. I had intended to wait till next year, when I 
should have been quite clear of those fetters I forged for 
myself in my college day — to wait till I was in receipt 
of that higher salary I am promised. But Grace can't be 
left down there to be bullied. Add to which, now old 
Holbourne has taken up this view of the case, and my 
respected father has thought proper to meddle in the 
matter, it's not likely I should find things run smooth 
for me then. The banker won't be much impressed with 
my rent-roll, when all's said and done." And Charlie 
smiled somewhat bitterly as he thought how limited his 
income would appear in Mr. Holbourne's eyes, even 
when his present hopes should be realized. " Nothing 
for it, Grade, but to persuade you to run away and share 
my bread and cheese, as soon as may be. Now your 
father has assumed the role of the domestic tyrant, I feel 
no further compunctions. Better either give me up, or 
do it at once, than submit to the dragooning you are 
likely to undergo at home. Miss Langworthy, as things 
stand at present, is scarce likely to make your cross easier 
to bear. Viva / my mind's made up. Reginald, like my- 
self, is at war with the authorities, and therefore fit aider 
and abettor in a scheme that sets them at defiance." 

His dinner was soon despatched, and he betook himself 
once more to his work, but his usually facile pen refused 
to run freely. Sooth to say, he could not keep his mind 
from dwelling on whether he should be able to gain 
Grace's consent to the contemplated elopement. To 
think of one thing, and write of another, is not produc- 
tive of very effective composition ; and finding most 
irrelevant words continually cropping up in his manu- 
script, Charlie at last threw it upon one side, as labour 
not likely to be productive of a satisfactory result. 

Besides, he expected Reginald Holbourne would look 
in shortly, to hear if there were any tidings of Lettice. 
There was plenty of fixity of purpose in Reginald just 
now. He blenched not an iota upon reading his father's 
letter. He had thoroughly made up his mind to marry 
Lettice, cost what it might, as soon a? ever he should 

Cross Purposes. 305 

find her, and treated his father's prohibition of his doing 
so with sullen indifference. This genuine love of his had 
much changed Reginald's character. Formerly he had 
been vacillating in mind, and somewhat addicted to 
sybaritism in practice. Now he was rigid, if taciturn, in 
performance of all duties required of him ; a model of 
punctuality, and an untiring worker. He had acquii ed 
considerable praise for the dexterity and success with 
which he had managed the Frankfort mission, and the close 
attention he now devoted to business was winning him 
golden opinions in the eyes of the firm he served. Once 
released from the thraldom of Blisworth, Chantry and 
Company, and Reginald threw his whole energies into 
the search for Lettice. He had interviews with half-a- 
dozen people every night on the subject — people for the 
most part who had idly answered one or other of the 
advertisements, and whose wandering stories he listened 
to with scant patience. Though curious, it was trying. 
These folks for the most part were imbued with the idea 
that they conferred an extraordinary favour by bringing 
their worthless intelligence, and that a considerable 
honorarium would of course reward their desire to 
restore the young lady to her friends. 

Still when a Mrs. Waters called upon Reginald to 
relate the story of how her cook had left her in a huff, 
and driven straight to Paddington Station with all her 
boxes ; when Mrs. Fitzsmithers of the Alexandra Semi- 
nary for Young Ladies, Upper Clapton, dropped in to 
record the sudden disappearance of a pupil-teacher, after 
riaving been reprimanded (Upper Clapton, for having 
been snubbed and nagged at for six months), in no 
recognised direction ; when Mrs. Macfungus, wife of the 
Low Church vicar of the adjoining parish, who had 
taken a young woman full of grace and oatmeal from 
the workhouse, with no character, and therefore ex- 
tremely humble upon the subject of wages, looked in to 
mention the absence of this young woman, and some 
dozen or so fiddle-patterned silver spoons conjointly ; 
then Reginald, as he came to undergo the task of listening 
to half-a-dozen such narratives a night, which narratives 
it was apparent, before half-a-score sentences had been 

306 fr-acse Oarcts. 

uttered could by no possible distortion be for one second 
deemed applicable to the case of Lettice as stated in the 
advertisements — then indeed Reginald would wax weary 
and hopeless. Fell and garrulous, too, were these dread 
female visitors. It surpassed the talent of man in this 
nineteenth century to put a check upon their tongues. 
The days of arbitrary translation to a dungeon or instant 
execution are gone, and Reginald finally found that the 
way to relieve himself from their presence was to pre- 
serve unbroken silence till they showed some symptoms of 
scarcity of breath, and then very shortly and brusquely 
to inform them that their information was worthless. It 
was true he had to face then all manners of application 
for reward — from neat hints to violent demands, from 
insinuations regarding the cab fare to querulous solicita- 
tion for defrayal of time and expenses. 

Reginald too, himself, wandered purposeless about the 
streets — that is, if one is justified in calling such driftless 
wandering purposeless which hoped to achieve by acci- 
dent what it despaired of doing by design. If he felt sad 
and weary at times, there was no despondency about 
him — he had no doubt about recovering Lettice event- 
ually. The gay,' light-hearted, easy-going youth hao. 
changed into a quiet, resolute, taciturn man, strong in 
the earnestness of his purpose, and striving with all his 
might to attain it. None had recognised the change in 
him more quickly than Charlie Collingham. 

The door is thrown open, and Miss Meggott, some- 
what abashed by Charlie's late rebuke, ushers in Regi- 
nald Holbourne, with a quietude very foreign to her 
usual volatile manner. Polly, with all her glibness of 
tongue, is quick to take a hint, and feels not a little dis- 
composed at the idea that she should have let her 
freedom of speech carry her too far. In her way, she is 
very much attached to both her lodgers, and now fidgets 
about the room, putting things a little straight, in con- 
siderable contrition. 

" You are not really angry with me, Mr. Collingham, 
for my nonsense ? " she says, at length, as she brushes close 
by Charlie, under some pretence of setting his desk to rights, 
and her wicked black eyes look deprecatingly up at him. 

i^ross i'iirj)oses. -v/ 

"Of course not/' he replied; "only bear in mind in 
future that's a subject admits of no chaff." 

" Certainly not," replied Polly, gaily. " Thy word is 
law, my liege, and your slave would place her neck 
beneath your foot, if it would not be a somewhat trouble- 
some performance for both parties. Hast any mora 
requirements, O sun of the universe ? " 

" None, thanks," replied Collingham, laughing. 

" Then, good night, gentlemen. May sweet dreams 
attend your slumbers, and your awaking be — be — be 
monstrous jolly ! " 

" Oh ! Polly, what a miserable breakdown ! " 

"Never mind," retorted Miss Meggott, with a laugh 
and a wink, " the sentiment ain't bad, if not quite so 
poetically expressed as it might be. Once more good 
night, and et cetera be with you ! " 

" Now, Charlie," exclaimed Holbourne, impatiently, 
as the door closed upon Polly, " have you any news for 

"Well, I have, and I haven't. Both our emissaries 
have found Lettice Cheslett, only to lose her again 
immediately — or, to speak more correctly, have found 
where she fled to, just twenty-four hours or so after she 
had left the house." 

" Go on," said Reginald. 

" She went from Baker Street to John Street, Isling- 
ton," continued Charlie, tersely, " and left that again 
yesterday afternoon. The people of the house say they 
don't know where for — Bullock says the landlady does, 
although she asserts she does not. Lightfoot merely 
reports that he traced her to that house, and is unable so 
far to say more than that she left it yesterday." 

" But neither of them looks to much difficulty in 
tracing her now, do they ? " inquired Reginald anxiously. 

" No. Bullock I saw, Lightfoot wrote — there's his 
letter," said Charlie, tossing it across to his friend. 
" Both think it a bit of bad luck to have missed putting 
us in communication with her by such a little. But as 
they say, these slips will happen in all things of the 
kind. Bullock is impressed with the idea that the land- 
lady knows where she has gone — a circumstance, as you 

308 'ffaCse Lards. 

see, that Lightfoot makes no allusion to. At all events, 
tb e landlady volunteers to forward a letter, if she has an 
opportunity — and here I hold with Bullock, that she 
would not have undertaken that much unless she felt 
pretty sure that the opportunity would not be wanting." 

" I see," said Reginald quickly. " Of course I shall 
send a note there ; it can do no harm, and may reach 
her. Blundering fools the pair of them, or they would 
have found 32, John Street a few days earlier." 

" Hum, I don't know. You see, it was so long before 
they were set to work that tracing Miss Cheslett became 
by no means easy. But I want to talk to you about my 
own affairs a little, Reginald." 

" Of course, what is it ? When do you expect to hear 
from Bullock again ?" 

" Oh, in a few day. I told you the other day, you 
know, that I was engaged to Grace ? " 

" Yes, and I was delighted to hear it, old fellow." As 
he spoke, Reginald Holbourne rose and began to pace 
the room restlessly. Now Collingham was seated in a 
low, lounging chair near the window, almost opposite 
the door. It was between these two points that Reginald 
commenced pacing up and down. As he returned from 
the door he paused opposite Charlie's chair and jerked 
out interrogatively, " Expect to see Lightfoot first, eh ?" 

"No, probably not. But Grace writes me word to say 
that your father is somehow aware of the whole affair." 

" And that there's an awful row in consequence, 
shouldn't wonder," remarked Holbourne, turning on his 
heel and resuming his deliberate tramp in the direction 
of the door. 

" Yes, and that's what I want to talk to you about." 

"I suppose you haven't the faintest conjecture of 
where she's gone now ? " observed Reginald, pausing in 
his walk opposite Charlie's chair. 

" Gone ! why where should she be gone ? " responded 
tne latter, in amazement. " She's still at Aldringham." 

" Excuse me," said Holbourne, after staring vaguely 
at him for a moment, " but I was thinking of Lettice." 

"And I was talking of Grace. What an owl you 
are ! " 

Cross Purposes. 309 

Reginald made no response, but slowly turned his steps 
towards the door. 

" Well, your father's been going on outrageously, quite 
after the pattern of the vindictive parent of transpon- 
tine melodrama, and swears that he'll hear of nothing of 
the kind." 

"I know ; he wrote me word so," replied Reginald, once 
more stopping, with his hands buried in his pockets, 
opposite his friend. 

" The d — 1 he did ! " exclaimed Charlie in considerable 

" Oh, yes ; and said he should disinherit me, and all 
the rest of it." 

" What, because I want to marry your sister?" 

" No, of course not. What a fool you are, Charlie ! 
Because I told him I meant to marry Lettice. Deuced 
odd where she can have gone to now ! I wonder why 
she left John Street," and Reginald turned abruptly on 
his heel, and recommenced his monotonous tramp. 

" Listen to me, and for goodness sake don't let your 
wits go wool-gathering for five minutes, if you can help 
it. Your father has found out that I am engaged to 
Grace, and is not a whit better pleased than at discover- 
ing you were engaged to Lettice. Do you understand ? " 

" Of course I do, and should before, if you had only 
spoken out, instead of talking about ' aware of the 
affair ! ' How was I to know you meant your affair ? " 

" Well, he's made Grace promise not to correspond any 
more with me, and generally gives her to understand 
that the converse of his blessing will attend any nuptials 
contracted with myself. Pleasant that, for both of us, 
isn't it ? " 

" Look here, Charlie," said Holbourne, as he dropped 
into a chair, " my governor, you know, is not a bad sort, 
but I'm afraid he's rather imitative. Now, an uncom- 
promising father like yours, With 'a d d disinheriting 

countenance,' is quite enough to demoralize the heads of 
families right through the country. Sir John has set 'em 
the example, and impressed with the manner in which 
he has discarded your noble self, the parents of the 
neighbourhood feel impelled to follow so meritorious an 

310 False Cards. 

example. Mutinous youth must be outlawed, and cursed 
with bell, book, and candle. They think of your 
governor's inexorable sternness, and murmur, ' Let's do't 
after the high Roman fashion,' and they do " 

" Go on," said Charlie, as the speaker paused. " Your 
exordium's all very well, but I want to hear what line 
of conduct you propose these outlawed children should 

" I've set you the example, Charlie, as your father has 
mine," replied Reginald, quietly. I have told him 
frankly that I refuse to yield to him on this point. If I 
know anything of you, and you love Grace as she 
deserves to be loved, you won't give her up so easily." 

" I'm not likely to do that without a hard fight," 
returned Collingham, slowly ; and then staring moodily 
at the empty grate, he became lost in thought. 

There was silence between them for some minutes. 
At last Charlie said, in low tones, glancing the while 
somewhat inquisitively at his companion's countenance, 

" Did you ever hear that I was married ? " 

" Yes, often ; but have ever looked upon it as sheer 
Aldringham gossip. What do you mean ? " And 
Reginald, in his turn, looked enquiringly at his host. 

" It is true, all the same. I took precisely the line of 
conduct you are about to take. I married in defiance of 
Sir John. He put forth exactly your father's present 
programme if I ventured to disobey him ; and has carried 
it out to the letter, as you know." 

" But you haven't a wife now ? " 

" No, poor child, she was not with me long. She died 
within the year. She was a good little thing, made light 
of the roughing we had to endure in those early days, 
and was always gay as a lark in our scrambling home : 
You can't think what a hopeless, purposeless beast I was for 
a twelvemonth afterwards. There seemed nothing worth 
living for, and as long as I earned bread and cheese I didn't 
feel that I cared about doing much more. One thing only 
occurred to me, and that was to conceal my loss from Sir 
John. I raged against the world, Regi, in my sorrow, 
and somehow connected my father's treatment of me 
with my wife's death. Of course, really, that had nothing 

Cross Purposes. 3 11 

to do with it. We were poor, certainly, but never in 
grievous straits. Still at the time I thought bitterly, had 
I been able to send her down to Churton for change of 
air, she might have been saved. So impressed was I with 
this idea that I wrote to my father, and pleaded hard for 
forgiveness, for the sake of my sick wife." 

" And Sir John ? " inquired Reginald, as his friend 
paused in dreamy remembrance of those bygone days of 
sorrow and suffering. 

"Never answered my letter," said Charlie, briefly; and 
as he spoke, his face hardened, and his dark eyes gleamed 
fiercely on his questioner. 

" I can hardly wonder now that you have never come 
together again." 

" You would deem it strange if we had, I should think, 
with that grave still lying green between us," replied 
Charlie, hoarsely. " But what I want to ask you is this : 
if I can persuade Gracie to marry me without her father's 
consent, will you countenance our wedding — be at it — 
give your sister away, &c. ? " 

" Yes. I can form some idea of what domestic 
discipline poor Gracie will undergo on your behalf. 
Charlie, if you really care for her — and I am sure you do 
— run away with her at once. If my advice is not filial, 
I know it's fraternal." 

"Yes, in every sense of the word. If we have any 
luck, old fellow, we might make a double marriage of 

" Perhaps so. Let me know the moment you have 
news for me ; and now good night." 

Charlie remained lost in tobacco and meditation for 
nearly half-an-hour after Reginald left him. " Yes," he 
muttered, as he knocked the ashes from his pipe " if I can 
but induce Gracie to listen to reason, the affair will be 
easy enough." 



ilHE warm September afternoon has grown stiL 
more sultry as it verges to a conclusion ; the 
sun descends slowly behind a bank of ominous 
clouds, to whose outer edges he imparts a 
copper-coloured tinge. The stillness of the evening is 
almost oppressive ; all animated nature seems exhausted. 
The sheep and cattle gather beneath the trees or hedges, 
in anticipation of the threatening outburst. In the villages 
men loll listlessly in their shirt-sleeves around their door- 
sills, and opine there will be " a goodish sup of rain before 
morning." The birds seek their roosting places with low 
querulous twittering ; even the boys and puppies seem 
awed into quietude. 

Mr. Holbourne's carriage, as it whirls into Aldringham, 
seems the sole thing astir along the dusty road. The 
horses are flecked with foam, although the coachman is 
driving leisurely. Both he and the footman are powdered 
heavily with dust, and consumed with a desire for beer. 
Through the hot empty streets they proceed at a sedate 
pace, while the populace languidly take note of them 
from window and doorstep — some of them, indeed, inter- 
changing feeble nods with the dust-covered servitors on 
the box. Usually the appearance of the Churton carriage 
would have given rise to speculation as to what gave 
occasion for its presence, but this evening it was too hot. 

Struck Down. 3 ( 3 

Men could but listen to the faint, far-off rumbling of the 
approaching storm, and wish that the rain might descend 
speedily and clear the air. 

The carriage makes its way to the railway, and there 
pulls up. The footman goes inside, and establishes him- 
self upon the down platform, and has barely done so five 
minutes when the shrill whistle of the approaching train 
rings out loud and clear ; another minute or two, and it 
glides quietly within the station. A slight girlish figure, 
with pale face, and draped in deep mourning, descends 
from one of the carriages, and having claimed her luggage, 
looks timidly around, and then inquires if there is any- 
thing to meet her from Sir John Collingham's. 

" Yes, miss," replies the porter, " Sir John's carriage is 
here ; that's his servant." 

The tall footman advances at this, and touching his 
hat says, inquiringly, "Miss Melton?" 

Lettice bowed assent. 

" The carriage is outside, Miss," continues that func- 
tionary ; " and Miss Collingham trusts you will excuse 
her not meeting you herself, as she is not very well to- 
day. Are these all your things, Miss ? " 

Lettice responds in the affirmative. A few seconds 
more, and she and her belongings are on their road to 
Churton. As they drive through Aldringham, it be- 
comes apparent that the storm, which has been threaten- 
ing for some hours, is on the verge of breaking. The 
stillness is at last broken, and the wind sighs through 
the streets with long, sonorous moan, pauses for a few 
seconds, and then again soughs more tumultuously, 
ending with a faint, spasmodic shriek ; the thunder 
growls deep and sullenly with ever-increasing roar, and 
a few big plashes of rain spatter the pavement. The 
coachman drops his whip sharply across his horses, and 
rattles out of the town at a pace considerably in excess of 
that at which he so leisurely entered it a short half-hour 

It is an open carriage, and Lettice cowers down 
amongst her rugs and wraps as the rain begins to descend 
in earnest, while the lightening flashes luridly across the 
now darkened sky, and the ominous roll of the thunder 

314 False Cards. 

deepens into the similitude of fierce salvoes of artillery. 
The girl's heart sinks within her as the pitiless storm 
beats savagely in her face. The coachman pulls up for a 
second, and the footman, jumping down, covers her up 
with an extra rug, and remarks he's afraid Miss Colling- 
ham will be very angry that they didn't bring the 
brougham ; but they never thought it would be like 
this. He scrambles up to his place, and on they speed again. 

Very sad feels Lettice. For the first time in her life 
she is going to earn her bread among strangers. The 
dispelling of her love-dream has left a sore gnawing at 
her heart-strings, and she grieves bitterly over the 
thought that she and Reginald are severed for life. 
She is getting rapidly drenched by the rain, despite her 
wraps. She is frightened at the thunder, and even more 
so at the thought of encountering these strangers with 
whom her lot is now to be cast ; she feels that she should 
like to indulge in a good cry better than anything. She 
knows next to nothing about these people with whom 
she is going to live ; she is engaged as a companion to a 
young lady, is all she has been told. The especial quali- 
fications required of her are that she should read well and 
be able to play ; and on this latter subject Lettice is 
oppressed with most terrible misgivings, for she knows 
that her performance on the piano is by no means to be 
regarded as brilliant, and that she is somewhat guilty of 
presumption in stating that she is qualified in that 

Still it was necessary that she should turn her hand to 
something. Her old friend Mrs. Bopps had answered 
this advertisement for her, and strongly urged her to try 
it. " Ladies who have been out before objected to," 
said the notice in question. " So, my dear, they can't 
expect to find you a past mistress on the instrument," 
urged the friendly landlady ; " not but what you play 
very nicely, I think, and it's no use being diffident in 
this world." 

And so it was that Miss Melton (to call her by her 
proper name), closed with Sir John Collingham's adver- 
tisement, and was at this present wending her way 
through rain and thunder to Churton. 

Struck Down. 315 

Drenched, sad, and desolate was Lettice as the carriage 
pulled up. Shivering, and with chattering teeth, she 
entered the big hall, feeling more forlorn and miserable, 
perhaps, than she had ever yet felt in the course of her 

But a door is thrown suddenly open, admitting a 
stream of light into the half illuminated hall, and a tall, 
elderly man in evening costume comes quickly forward, 
and taking her hand in his, exclaims, 

" Welcome to Churton, Miss Melton ! Good heavens ! 
you are wet through ! The accursed fools must have 
taken an open carriage for you instead of the brougham ! 
Sylla, my love, come here and take care of your friend. 
She's half drowned, thanks to that idiot Jenkins ! I 
must tell him a bit of my mind at once ; " and the Baronet 
strode off in a paroxysm of wrath, such paroxysms being 
by no means rare with Sir John, and woefully dreaded 
by his household. 

Almost as her father spoke Sylla glided into the hall, 
advanced to within a few steps of Lettice, and stopped. 
Lettice felt much confused as this fair-haired, delicate 
complexioned young lady stood apparently contemplating 
her with cool, deliberate stare. 

" Miss Melton, she said, in a quiet, musical voice, " you 
must come to me, please. I can't see you, you know." 

Now this was precisely what Lettice did not know. 
No intimation had been given her that the lady to whom 
she was to be companion was blind. It was little likely 
that she should discover it in that half-lit hall. She came 
forward a pace or two, and then paused, shrinking and 

" Give me your hand," said Sylla, " and let me take 
you upstairs to get rid of your wet things." 

It was all a mystery so far, and she regarded Miss 
Collingham with no little awe ; but, obedient to her 
commands, Lettice extended her hand, and was some- 
what surprised at the warmth with which Sylla's slender 
white fingers clasped it. 

" You are wet, and chilled to death ! " cried Miss 
Collingham. " Come along ; we must take care of you." 

Lettice followed her hostess in mute astonishment as 

316 False Cards. 

she threaded her way across a passage or two, and then 
ascended the stairs. So far there was no difficulty, but 
when Sylla, throwing open a door, and exclaiming, 
" Here's my own den ; come in and let's see what we can 
do to warm and comfort you," passed into an unlit room, 
Lettice paused at the threshold, somewhat puzzled. 

" Ah ! stand still ! " cried Sylla, " till I light the 
candles for you ; " as her quick ear detected the cessation 
of her companion's footsteps. " I forgot for the moment 
there were no lights here. I am cut off from much that 
makes light so sweet to us; but you see I have the 
advantage of you at times." 

More bewildered than ever, Lettice entered the boudoir. 
She could not understand her hostess in the least. But 
she soon comprehended the womanly kindness with 
which her wet things were taken from her. In five 
minutes, Sylla, assisted by her maid, had divested 
Lettice of her upper garments, and the latter, robed in 
one of Miss Collingham's dressing-gowns, her feet thrust 
into Miss Collingham's slippers, was sipping hot wine 
and water while her own boxes were being unpacked. 
Still not a suspicion of the truth crossed Lettice's mind ; 
and when Sylla, consigning her to the hands of her maid, 
bade her be quick, and not waste much time upon her 
toilette, as dinner waited, Lettice had still no idea 
that Miss Collingham's eyes were shrouded in eternal 

Even dinner did not reveal the fact. Sir John rattled 
pleasantly on in conversation with his daughter, albeit 
he by no means forgot to introduce a courteous observa- 
tion occasionally to her companion. But Lettice was 
shy and nervous, responded briefly, and kept her eyes so 
riveted on her plate that it was little wonder she did not 
penetrate Sylla's affliction. Robert Collingham, too, 
made some slight effort to talk to her ; but Lettice was 
rendered so palpably uncomfortable by these attempts 
that he good-naturedly desisted, and left his frightened 
vis-a-vis to her own devices. 

" Come and sit here," said Sylla, as they entered the 
drawing-room — " I want to know you. Down, Dandy ! 
~-where have you been, sir ? Why weren't you at 

Slruc/c uoivn. 317 

dinner ? Miss Melton, I must present you to one of my 
greatest friends." 

The dog seemed most perfectly to comprehend his 
mistress's remark. He wagged his tail, walked gravely 
up to Lettice, and thrust his nose into her hand, finally 
acknowledging her timid caress by placing a paw upon 
her lap. 

"Ah ! Dandy approves of you, Miss Melton, and that 
is by no means what he does of everyone who comes to 
see me. He is most capricious in his likes and dislikes. 
You will think me very foolish, but I have great respect 
for Dandy's judgment. And now, you must not think 
me rude, but tell me a little what you are like — whether 
dark or fair ? " 

Lettice opened her eyes in dismay. What was she to 
think of all this ? Miss Melton hazarded a glance at her 
companion, whom she now deemed mentally afflicted, 
and replied quietly. 

" I am such as you see me. It would be presumption 
and foolishness to describe myself to you." 

" What ! haven't they told you ? Have you not yet 
discovered it ? It was a mistake of my father not to 
have communicated my misfortune to you," said Sylla, 
gently. " I trust you will see my question is not so rude 
as I fear you think it, when I tell you that I am blind." 

Lettice started, and then gazed in mute astonishment 
into her companion's face. The fixity of the pale blue 
eyes that were turned towards her riveted her attention 
at once. She read the truth in their calm, passionless 
stare, looking, as it seemed to her, into some far-off 
future. Though turned towards her, she saw that they 
were not actually directed to her own countenance. A 
great awe fell upon Lettice as she recognised that this 
brilliantly-dressed woman who sat beside her was bereft 
of sight. 

"I beg your pardon — I am so sorry," she whispered, 
stealing her hand into Sylla's " I didn't know — nobody 
told me. I will dc anything you like. I would be a 
friend to you, if I may." 

" You may, and you must," replied Miss Collingham, 
as she pressed the little hand within her own warmly, 

3i 8 False Cards. 

and a bright smile flashed across her face. " I feel I shall 
like you, and my instincts, like Dandy's, seldom mislead 
me. God is good to me, and makes up for my depriva- 
tion in one way by sharpening my faculties in others. I 
judge people, now, a good deal by their voice. It seldom 
misleads me, and yours tell me we shall be great friends. 
Now, won't you enlighten me a wee bit about yourself ? " 

Lettice had never known what it was to have a female 
friend since the marriage of her sister, and that had 
taken place when she was too young to think much of 
such things — when her confidences related to juvenile 
scrapes and the woes of her doll ; though even in those 
days she had been but little given to such childish diver- 
sions. The business of life had, in a manner, begun 
early for Lettice, and she had been installed housekeeper 
by her grandfather ere she was well clear of the nursery. 

Quietly Lettice told her simple story ; how she and 
her sister had been left orphans, and had been brought 
up by her grandfather ; how her sister had married and 
died, all within a year ; how the death of her grand- 
father had left her all alone in the world ; how she had 
first proposed to get her living by needlework ; and how, 
at her landlady's suggestion, she had answered Sir 
John's advertisement. " I can read aloud," she added 
naively, in conclusion — " I mean I have been really 
taught ; and, if you only think I play well enough, Miss 
Collingham, I can be of use to you, I know." 

" You will be everything I wish, I'm sure," returned 
Sylla. "And now, child, what between your journey 
and your drenching, I daresay you would like to go to 

When Lettice woke the next morning, it was with a 
dull, oppressed feeling in her head. She felt somewhat 
confused, and it required all the resolution she could 
muster to rise. This produced so violent a fit of 
shivering, and her brain swam to such a degree, that 
she was speedily compelled to crawl back to bed again. 
When Miss Collingham's maid, despatched by her mis- 
tress, at length came to look after her, Lettice could only 
murmur that she felt very unwell. This speedily pro- 
duced a visit from Sylla, who had no sooner passed her 

Struck Down. 319 

cool hand over Lettice's burning brow than she directed 
the doctor should be sent for. That functionary, upon 
his arrival, intimated that he had not been summoned 
a moment too soon. 

" The girl is in a high fever, Miss Collingham, and 
what course it may run is, at present, impossible to 
determine. But the young lady is very seriously ill, and 
requires most careful tending — may, very likely, be in 
danger two or three days hence." 

" I will be answerable for the nursing, doctor, only give 
me my instructions. She got wet coming here last night, 
which is, I presume, the proximate cause of her illness ? " 

" Yes, that would be perhaps the immediate reason, 
but this fever has been lurking in the system some weeks 
past, I should judge from the violence with which it has 
broke forth. Fevers do at times lie locked in the system 
like foul gases in a cellar, to be either dissipated by change 
of air and scene, or exploded by something that acts 
towards them like the candle to the confined vapour." 

The doctor was so far right. Before three days were 
over, Lettice's situation was critical. The rich dark 
tresses were shorn from her head, the black fever-lit eyes 
gleamed wild with delirium, and as the girl tossed inces- 
santly upon her pillow, the poor parched lips poured 
forth a torrent of incoherent babble. Sylla and her 
attendants watched over the sick-bed with unremitting 
vigilance. What help careful nursing might give her in 
her necessity that Lettice had. Miss Collingham often 
spent hours by her side, and despite her infirmity, there 
were few defter nurses than Sylla. 

The spell exercised by such quiet noiseless ministration, 
the soothing afforded by such light delicate fingers, is 
comprehended only by those who have looked far down 
the shadows of the valley of death. 

Much raved the girl in her delirium of Reginald. 
Constant were her appeals to him to protect her from 
some vague impending evil. She wailed feebly that he 
had left her to bear alone the brunt of some woman's 
bitter tongue. " Come back, oh ! come back," she would 
cry, " if you love me, and testify how false is her accusa- 
tion — " " No," she would exclaim at times fierce! y, " it 

320 False Cards. 

is not so, and you know it. Ah ! if Reginald were but 
here, you wicked woman ! But he is not, and I shall 
never see him more ! " And then the poor wearied brain 
would wander again, and inquire querulously for that 
dead sister and Charlie. 

The crisis is near at hand, the doctor says. If his 
patient fails to get sleep in the next twenty-four hours, 
she will succumb to the violence of the disease. Sylla 
sits motionless by the bedside, while the luckless girl 
tosses restlessly on her pillow. Her maid glides into the 
room and whispers that Miss Holbourne wishes to see 

" I can't leave this ; tell Miss Holbourne to come to 
me here," replies Miss Collingham in a low voice. 

A few minutes, and Grade steals in and embraces her 

" I don't like to leave her," said Sylla, speaking under 
her breath. " Poor thing, it is pitiable to hear her ! She 
is moderately quiet just now, but the doctor says she 
must sleep or die. It is shocking to listen to her wander- 
ings, poor child. She seems ever in terror of some name- 
less woman. 

Miss Holbourne leant noiselessly over the bed and 
gazed at the sufferer. She marked the drawn pallid 
cheeks, the parched twitching lips, took note of the long 
dark lashes that veiled the closed eyes ; and as she gazed, 
Grace sighed sadly, and thought how fair to look upon 
that face must have been in health, retaining as it still 
did a species of weird beauty, despite the fell ravings of 
the fever. Suddenly the lids were lifted, and the big 
dark eyes gleamed fiercely up in Miss Holbourne's face. 
They dilated as they did so, and Lettice strove hard to 
raise herself in her bed. 

" Slanderer ! — traducer ! " she shrieked, " will you 
never leave me ? You have slain my fair fame — am I 
never to escape you ? I have done what you demanded. 
I have sacrificed all that made life worth having, at your 
bidding. Will you dog me with your hideous calumny 
to my grave ? Have you no mercy ? Ah ? pity," she 
continued, as the wild shriek of her first words died away 
to a low, plaintive moan — " I cannot tear him from mv 

Struck Down. 321 

heart. Save me, Reginald ! I have tried so hard, and 
she persecutes me still ! My love, my own, I cannot give 
you up ! Go, you terrify me ! — your looks kill me ! 
Reginald, my darling, why are you not here ? " She 
paused, and cowered down amid the bed-clothes in ap- 
parent terror. Grace, inexpressibly shocked, made a 
slight movement to withdraw. It attracted Lettice's 
attention. Raising herself by a supreme effort, her eyes 
glittering with wild excitement, she cried, " I can bear it 
no longer ! I renounce my promise — I refuse to yield 
him to you ! Reginald Holbourne, stand between that 
woman and me, or I shall die ! " And, with a cry of 
anguish, Lettice fell back on her pillow motionless, and, 
to all appearance, lifeless. 

The astonishment of the two girls at hearing Reginald 
Holbourne's name was unbounded. Sylla, it need be 
scarcely observed, had never connected the unknown 
Reginald of her patient's ravings with the banker's son. 

" Go, Gracie, quick ! " she exclaimed ; " I will come to 
you in a few minutes. It is very unfortunate, but she 
evidently takes you for somebody else. It might excite 
her again if she should happen to see you here when she 

But Lettice speedily recovered from her half-swoon, 
and once more tossed restlessly on her pillow. The wan, 
feeble hands now fretted impatiently about her head. 

"I can't find it, Reginald," she murmured — "I don't 
know what's become of my hair. No, one tress is enough 
for you. No, no," she whispered — " don't, dear, I'm so 
tired." For a few minutes she continued to mutter 
incoherently, and then, in awe-stricken tones, exclaimed, 
" Dead ! — dead ! Charlie, you frighten me ! Ah me ! 
all alone — all alone ! " Then, for a time, the poor 
fevered brain ceased from its troublous working, and 
Lettice lay comparatively still. 

" She's not asleep yet, Harriet," said Miss Collingham, 
softly, to her maid, "but she is so much quieter that I 
trust she may be before long. Watch by her till I 
come back." And Sylla made her way rapidly down- 

There, as may be supposed, the two girls speculated 

322 False Cards. 

much as to what relation the sick girl stood in to Regi- 
nald. She had uttered the name quite distinctly, and 
appealed to him to protect her from some unknown 
woman. The terms of endearment which had escaped 
her concerning him, left little doubt that there had been 
love-passages between them. 

" Who is she, Sylla ? " inquired Miss Holbourne. 

" My dear Gracie, I know very little about her. I have 
taken a great fancy to her, considering how slight my 
knowledge of her really is. This is what she told me of 
herself — " And here Sylla narrated Lettice's history, as 
far as she knew it. 

" She never mentioned my brother's name before ? " 
inquired Miss Holbourne, musingly. 

" No, but she was not likely to give me her whole 
confidence in one evening. I can't think her reticent 
about her past life, considering, poor thing, the short 
time that was vouchsafed her to throw light upon it." 

" I suppose not. However, we must wait till either 
she or Reginald choose to explain matters to us. That 
they have been lovers at some time seems pretty clear. 
Good-bye, Sylla, I hope your patient may mend before 

Who was this girl that had dropped from the clouds, 
and spoke in such fond terms of her brother ? mused 
Miss Holbourne, as she drove homewards. 

Charlie's story. 

HE ways of women are inscrutable to mascu- 
line understandings," quoth Mr. Lightfoot, 
meditatively. " As far as my knowledge of 
the sex goes, they seem always bound to do 
the last thing you would expect of them. You may 
draw a fair deduction of what course a man may take 
under given circumstances, but as for predicting what it 
may occur to a woman to do in a similar case would be a 
problem that would simply convince Solomon of the 
futility of wordly experience." 

" What's the matter, Leo ? " inquired his wife — " what 
puzzles you now ? " 

" Miss Cheslett is the matter, and what has taken her 
to Aldringham is the thing that puzzles me. I under- 
stand what made her leave Baker Street — I understand 
what brought her to Islington — but why she has gone to 
Aldringham beats me. She must know that Miss Lang- 
worthy lives there, and she should know that her lover 
does not. She can't have gone down there to confront 
the woman who, I presume, drove her away from her 
old lodgings. Why did she go ? It is the last thing I 
should have suspected her of doing." 

" You are, of course, sure she has gone there ? " in- 
quired his partner. 

" Sure as one can be without going down to see. I 

3 2 4 False Cards. 

have ascertained that she drove to King's Cross Station, 
and that a young lady in deep mourning, corresponding 
to her in every respect, took a ticket for that place. 
Yes, I have not much doubt about her having gone 

Looked upon from Mr. Lightfoot's point of view, it 
did seem strange what had induced Lettice to betake 
herself to Aldringham. Not a whit less puzzled were Col- 
lingham and Reginald Holbourne, when apprised of the 
fact, and but for Charlie's more prudent counsels, Regi- 
nald would have at once started off in search of her. But 
he yielded at last, and it was finally settled that the 
inquiry should be left to the versatile Lightfoot, who, 
upon this occasion, had forestalled his rival, Bullock, by 
some hours in his information. The latter was dismissed 
with a handsome douceur, and a diplomatic intimation 
from Collingham that his services were no further re- 
quired, as they had discovered Miss Cheslett's where- 
abouts from other sources. Charlie knew something of 
the detective's enmity towards Lightfoot, and was very 
careful not to inform him of that gentleman's being also 
engaged in the affair. 

" It's been rather an awkward business to work out," 
said Mr. Bullock, " but it's all plain sailing now ; and of 
course, as you've heard of the young lady in other ways, 
it's no use my running down to Aldringham. Much 
obliged, sir," and the detective touched his hat and 

" It's very strange," said Reginald, for about the 
twentieth time, as he sat in Charlie's rooms smoking, 
after the fashion of a perfect neophyte in the use of 
tobacco. He consumed his cigars at this time apparently 
as much by mastication as by legitimate smoking, and 
was wont to chew them, and send forth volumes of 
vapour in a fashion held highly indecorous by all votaries 
of nicotine. In his present state of feverish excitement, 
Reginald was scarce conscious of what he did. I have 
heard the story of a man, temperate enough in his usual 
way, who, in the excitement of a contested election at a 
meeting of his supporters, finished a bottle of sherry. In 
the heat of that fiery speechifying, he recked little what 

Charlie x Story. 325 

he was doing, and indignantly denied that he had swal- 
lowed even a glass, when laughingly taxed with the per- 
formance. He was as utterly oblivious of what he had 
done, and as perfectly unaffected thereby, as if that 
decanter had never been there. 

Reginald at this time is in a similar strait. He eats, 
smokes, drinks mechanically; in his fierce excitement 
about Lettice he is almost unconscious of those common- 
place functions of life. In the City only does he gain 
any respite ; there the work takes him for the time out 
of himself, and he throws himself into it with a savage 
energy and indifference to the quantity, that astonishes 
his compeers, who a few months back reckoned him by 
no means a toiler in the hive — viewed him, indeed, as 
one whose bread was already well buttered, and who was 
perfectly aware of the fact. But a strong passion has 
made and marred many a man. In Reginald's case it 
seems likely to be the making of him ; but even Charlie 
Collingham looks with some dismay upon his friend's 
worn, haggard countenance. Amusements of all kinds 
— theatres, parties, dinners — Reginald rejects. He lives 
but for two things — the discovery of Lettice and to push 
his way in the City. Questioned closely by Charlie, he 
admits that he sleeps badly, that he hates going to bed, 
and is ready to leave it as soon as may be, that he eats 
little, but lives a good deal upon tobacco and stimulants. 

Contemplating him worrying (there is no other term 
for it) the cabana between his lips this evening, Charlie 
comes to the conclusion that his friend cannot last much 
longer on his present diet. 

" It's very strange," resumed Reginald, dreamily. "I 
can't conceive what has taken Lettice down to Aldring- 

" Did she know your people lived there ? " inquired his 

" She might, but it is very doubtful. I never said 
much to her on the subject of my relations ; further than 
that my father was a country banker, I don't think she 
knew anything about my belongings." 

" Did you know anything of hers ? " asked Charlie, 

326 False Cards. 

" She had none but the old man who died, and a 
brother-in-law long lost sight of." 

Do not think that either of the young men had over- 
looked the fact that it was very possible Lettice might 
have to earn her bread, but it never occurred to either of 
them that she could have gone to Aldringham in pursuit 
of it. Her last letter nearly to Reginald had talked of 
this probability, and he had heard nothing that led him 
to believe that Mr. Cheslett had left any money behind 
him ; in fact, Reginald had strong reason for thinking 
that Lettice was in embarrassed circumstances. 

" Reginald," said Charlie, " don't think that I have 
behaved badly, because it is not altogether my fault, as 
it happens, but I am that brother-in-law." 

"You!" exclaimed Holbourne. " Good heavens ! you 
don't mean to say that you married Lettice Cheslett's 
sister ! " 

" Her name is not Cheslett ; but I married Lettice's 
sister. Listen, Regi, and I'll tell you the whole story ; 
don't interrupt me till I have done." He rose from his 
seat as he spoke, leant upon the mantelpiece for a few 
moments, and then commenced : " I am fond of a theatre 
now, but in my Oxford days I was wild about the busi- 
ness. I belonged to the ' Shooting Stars,' and was voted 
by no means bad for an amateur — indeed, in my inner- 
most heart I thought that I could have made my way, 
and taken a very respectable position in the profession. 
I need scarcely say I don't think so now. Well, of 
course I was always acting, doing manager, stage-manager 
— in short, promoting amateur theatricals continually. 
The engaging of professional actresses was constantly left 
to me. It happened in my early days of theatrical devo- 
tion that I made the acquaintance of Miss Melton ; she 
came down from town to assist at some performances I 
took part in at Bigminsthorpe. A slight flirtation sprang 
up between us, and as the engaging of ladies time after 
time was either placed in my hands, or conducted under 
my auspices, I took very good care that Miss Melton 
should be always bespoken. Our flirtation deepened and 
deepened, until it got very far beyond flirtation, and we 
were both as much in love as it is well possible to be. I 

Charlie's Story. 327 

was now incessantly running up from Oxford to see Lilian 
Melton. Finally, we got engaged to each other, with very 
undefined views as to what was to come of it. She was 
an actress at an East-end theatre, and I an Oxford under- 
graduate. It did not seem probable that our marriage 
was near at hand, and I don't think either Lilian or I 
ever contemplated the solemnization of that event until 
some dim remote period. We were both young, dread- 
fully in love, managed to see each other pretty often, and 
thought things altogether were so roseate that we were 
in no particular hurry to break the spell that lay over us 
at the time. 

" As you know," said Charlie, with a faint smile, 
" there's always a bad fairy — an unpropitiated magician 
or affronted sprite mixed up in all youthful love tales. 
Well, some one of these brought the deluge upon our 
heads in the shape of Sir John. He was furnished with 
what I deemed at the time a most calumnious version of 
my love affair. He interfered in his most despotical 
manner, stigmatised me as a fool, and poor Lilian as 
something much worse. I won't allude further to the 
foul charge he brought against her, beyond mentioning 
that months afterwards I found out that there was a Miss 
Melton of the West-end as well as the East — that the 
former drove exceedingly pretty ponies in the Park, and 
enjoyed a reputation by no means doubtful, and that I 
firmly believe my father confounded her with my affianced 

" My temper is somewhat like my father's. I was 
furious at his autocratic commands to myself — I was still 
more indignant at the scandalous terms in which he spoke 
of Lilian. My answer was couched in language by no 
means conciliatory. A short but violent correspondence 
ensued. Finally, Sir John informed me that if I presumed 
to contract this marriage, he discarded me from that 
time, that he would hold communication with me neither 
by word nor letter, that not a shilling he could alienate 
from me should ever be mine, that he should forbid me 
to set foot in Churton, and that any servant who connived 
at my doing so would be instantly discharged." 

Charlie paused for a moment and gazed keenly at his 

328 False Cards. 

auditor. No need to ask if Holbourne was interested. 
His blue eyes were riveted on his companion's face. 

" I am not of the kind," continued Collingham, " that 
bow meekly to such arbitrary decisions. I was very 
much in love, and frantic with indignation at the unjust 
aspersions cast upon Lilian. My answer was curt. I 
informed him that I should forward a copy of the certifi- 
cate of my marriage to him within a fortnight, and I did. 
With that one exception, at the ball, I have never seen my 
father since, nor has but one letter ever passed between us. 
So sore was I with him and the world generally, that 
when my poor wife was taken from me some months 
afterwards, I took especial precautions to prevent the 
intelligence reaching Sir John's ears." 

" But how came it," inquired Reginald, eagerly, " that 
you so totally lost sight of Lettice ? " 

" That is easily explained," replied Charlie. " If old 
Cheslett never strenuously opposed, he at all events never 
cordially approved my marriage with his grand-daughter. 
He knew I had quarrelled with my father, he knew that 
my private means were very moderate — a bare three 
hundred a year, that I inherited on coming of age from 
my mother, consequently I represented a needy man. 
Now the old gentleman, it has always been my belief, 
was much better off than he affected to be. I fancy his 
son-in-law, John Melton, a scapegrace doctor, from all I 
have been able to pick up, tugged hard at his purse-strings 
during his brief existence. The old man was at heart a 
miser, and he was terribly apprehensive that I should 
prove a similar blood-sucker. I never asked him for a 
shilling, but during my wife's lifetime I don't believe he 
ever saw me without dreading that I should apply to him 
for money. He knew I must be hard put to it to get 
along ; and Lilian's father had taught him that in such 
case he was likely to be urgently appealed to. He 
eschewed all his relations from similar reasons. While 
my wife lived, it was impossible to conceal his residence 
from us, though I think he never saw me without a 
shudder of apprehension on that point. But no sooner 
was she dead, than he abruptly left his old lodgings, and 
where he went I never guessed, until you told me your 

Charlie's Story. 329 

story I have no doubt he purposely cut off all clue to 
his abode, from that shadowy suspicion that I might 
at some time prove importunate, and clamour for 

" Then you don't think Lettice is left destitute ? " 

"I can't say about that, but I have no doubt her 
grandfather has left money behind him. Whether to 
her or not, is an open question ; but one would think, if 
he made a will at all, that she would most likely benefit. 
Those papers, poor child, she complained to you that she 
could not understand, would probably prove simple of 
comprehension to a man of business." 

They both remained silent for some minutes. Reginald 
was lost in meditation on his friend's story. It was so 
odd, he thought, that Charlie should have known all 
about these people so long. At last he said abruptly, 

" Then if you had chanced to meet Lettice that time 
you came to my rooms before the Aldringham ball, you 
would have recognised her ?" 

" Most likely. At all events, she would certainly 
have known me. They were living there then, I sup- 

"Oh, yes, though I didn't know them at that time. 
By the way, what was Cheslett ? " 

" An actor, but not a very distinguished one. His 
speciality was stage management. He was of the old 
school, and terribly adverse to much outlay on scenery 
or dresses. They did not lie altogether in his control, 
or there would have been slight expense gone to in that 
respect. He used to drive dramatic authors wild by his 
objections to the outlay necessary for the production of 
their effects. A sensational drama of the present day 
he Avould probably have pronounced ruinous, even if 
practicable, to place on the boards. Runs of a hundred 
nights were before his time, and what stage machinery 
is capable of at present not even dreamt of." 

" It is queer," remarked Holbourne, at length, " that 
you should turn out to be Lettice's brother-in-law, and, 
what's more, I fancy her nearest relative to boot." 

" Probably ; but I must get to work again. That," 
he said, pointing vaguely to some loose manuscript upon 


False Cards. 

his desk, " must be finished before I go to bed. If you 
hear me spoken of as a married man in future, you 
know now how much of truth is contained in the asser- 
tion. If, in consequence of my relations with your 
sister, you feel it imperative on some occasion to deny 
the fact, I would prefer your confining yourself simply 
to the denial, and not going into explanation concerning 
it without consulting me. But I have no wish to bind 
you to this remember, should you deem the narration of 
the whole s-tory a necessity." 

Reginald nodded good night, and strode off in the 
direction of his rooms, in a more jubilant frame of mind 
than he had known for some weeks. 



g|ISS LANGWORTHY has resumed her pet role, 
meanwhile, of martyred innocence, with all 
conceivable gusto. Young ladies, when jilted, 
as a rule rather emulate the stoicism of the 
Indians, wear a stiff upper lip, and strive to conceal 
their sufferings. To make parade of woe on such occa- 
sion would be generally stigmatized by the sex as show- 
ing a great want of proper spirit. But Miss Lang- 
worthy had not much reverence for her sisters' theories 
in such cases. She at all events played her own game 
with most contemptuous disregard of the convention- 
alities. She took care that Aldringham should be in- 
formed of how shamefully she had been thrown over by 
her cousin. She affected even sombre raiment. Her 
manner and voice were subdued. Aldringham society, 
in little more than a week, was in sympathetic rapport 
with Miss Langworthy, and regarded Reginald Holbourne 
as an abandoned profligate. 

" How beautifully she takes it, poor thing ! though it 
is easy to see how her heart is wrung by such shameful 
desertion," chorussed the ladies. 

" Got himself into a deuce of a mess with some girl 
or other," muttered the men. " Had to break with his 
cousin, or this other vowed she would bring an action 
for breach of promise at once, and no nonsense about 
it 1 " 

33 2 Fake Cards. 

" Worse than that, sir, a deal," remarked that lugu- 
brious leaven of quidnuncs with which all society is 
tinged. They seldom commit themselves to more than 
such indefinite accusation, but they waggle their malevo- 
lent old heads, and maunder on : " It's not for them to 
say. What has come to their ears perhaps, after all, 
may never leak out. They are not ill-natured, and trust 
it may not, if only for his father's sake." More detri- 
mental to an assailed character, by far, these vapoury 
insinuations, than most scandalous accusations directly 

All this brought but slight relief to bonnie Grace 
Holbourne. If she was spared further stories of her 
lover's wrong-doing, it was only to hear garbled reports 
of her brother's offending. She had ascertained without 
doubt from her father that Reginald's engagement with 
Marion was at an end, but beyond an intimation that 
her brother had behaved badly and contemplated behav- 
ing worse, Grace knew nothing. That his plighted troth 
to his cousin was a mistake had long been visible to her ; 
but that Marion should make this display of acutely 
feeling the severance of that tie puzzled her much. She 
knew perfectly well that Miss Langworthy cared nothing 
about her brother; she thought over that affair of 
Robert Collingham's, and felt perfectly assured that her 
cousin would have said yes had the chance been vouch- 
safed her. And inwardly Grace thought what a deal of 
annoyance it would have spared her and Reginald if 
Robert Collingham had but knelt at her cousin's feet 
instead of her own. 

Miss Langworthy, meanwhile, seems determined on 
mourning this dead love ; dead, ay, how far back on both 
sides ! — and she enacts the part to perfection. In her 
assumed sadness she contrives to throw a gloom over the 
whole house ! she pleads want of spirits to whatever her 
uncle may propose in the way of entertainment, and 
succeeds in enveloping both him and Grace in her own 
mock mourning. 

The banker waxes fretful and irritable under this treat- 
ment ; he puts his discomfort all down to the perversity 
of his self-willed children ; he snubs his daughter and 

An Elopement. 333 

pets his niece, and imitating Sir John, whom he much 
reveres, desires Reginald's name may not be mentioned 
in his presence. This edict is fulminated with con- 
siderable nervous trepidation and much flourishing of 
the eye-glass. Grace takes up the cudgels for her 
brother with considerable spirit, but is peremptorily put 
down, and informed that her own conduct is pretty 
nearly as undutiful. Marion, while gently deprecating 
the sentence, dexterously fans the flame of Mr. Hol- 
bourne's wrath. 

" Pray, pray don't be hard on Reginald, uncle," she 
said in her most mellifluous tones. "He has not treated 
me very well ; never mind that — I can bear my own 
troubles ; but I should be loth to hear you threaten him 
with punishment on my account. I loved him well 
while he would let me, and am but justly punished for 
not insisting that your consent should have been asked 
to our engagement in the first instance." 

Mr. Holbourne only stormed the more. Persecution 
of the offender seemed like the dispensing of simple 
justice. The banker hardened his heart against his 
children, and felt that he approximated to his pet model, 
Sir John Collingham, the more he stifled , his natural 

But Mr. Holbourne was very uneasy in his new 
character. He had always been a most indulgent parent, 
and was of naturally warm affections ; he was essentially 
a domestic, home-loving man, and the discomfort of his 
hearth weighed heavily on his soul. It was all very well 
for Sir John, a man of iron will and granite disposition, 
to curse and cast off a son who had disobeyed him; 
but the banker's temperament was no tougher than 
cheese. He carried his family troubles about with him ; 
he began to falter in his pompous assurance ; he had let 
slip one or two opportunities of airing his eloquence of 
late ; the gold eye-glass waxed feeble in its domineering 
flourishes ; in short, to close observers it became evident 
that the banker was uneasy in his mind. The gossiping 
little town began to take note of all these things. The 
disgraceful conduct of his son served to explain the 
change in Mr. Holbourne's demeanour for a little, but 

334 False Cards. 

ere long Aldringham began to whisper, with bated 
breath, of disastrous speculations. It is well in such 
places to announce publicly when your liver should be 
out of order, lest observations detrimental to your sol- 
vency or moral character should gain ground consequent 
on your depression of spirits. 

There was no reason from which to deduce this last 
rumour, further than that Mr. Holbourne seemed out of 
sorts. But to be suspected of embarrassment is a cruel 
strain upon any bank. More than one perfectly sound 
business has collapsed under the upas tree of suspicion. 
They are not all card houses that go down in a com- 
mercial hurricane. Goodly and substantial traders get 
sometimes engulfed in the storm. The reckless specu- 
lators originate the malstrom, but it sucks down a good 
many whose houses were built upon its banks, though 
ever so substantially. Holbourne & Co. experience an 
awkward time of it, due solely, when traced to first 
causes, to Miss Langworthy's clever impersonation of 

Things weigh heavily on Grace at this time. She 
cannot disguise from herself that her father is worn, 
worried, and anxious. He is shorter than ever with her, 
and replies quite snappishly to her inquiries about his 
health, &c. ; such confidences as he may choose to bestow 
are reserved for Marion. Grace feels sadly that her 
cousin has taken her place. She could bear it better did 
she not so thoroughly comprehend the falsity of Marion's 
character. Powerless though she is to counteract them, 
she begins to see through many of Miss Langworthy's 
designs, though what her object is in thus ostentatiously 
wearing the willow, still puzzles Grace amazingly. 
What a mockery it is, no one knows better than Miss 

Sadly one afternoon Grace puts on her hat and slips 
out for a walk. Aldringham society she has rather 
eschewed of late — the girl is sick at heart of listening to 
calumnies on her lover, or feeling her ears tingle as she 
catches some fresh slander about her brother. She 
makes her way as shortly as possible to the outskirts of 
the town, and proposes to herself a good stretch in the 

An Elopement. 335 

country. But ere she clears the houses, Grace becomes 
conscious that her footsteps are dogged. She has no 
idea by whom, and does not like to look round ; never- 
theless, she feels instinctively that a man is following 
her. She is not alarmed in the least, although she 
certainly feels some annoyance. It will curtail her walk 
for one thing, as she has no fancy for going into the 
country thus attended — more especially as she has not 
achieved a good look at her follower. Having just 
cleared the houses, Miss Holbourne turns sharply round, 
and in ten paces confronts her unlicensed attendant. 

A tall, good-looking man she thinks, as she steals a 
glance at him from beneath her eye-lashes, and essays to 
pass him. But the gentleman in question deliberately 
bars her path, and raising his hat, exclaims : 

" I must ask pardon, Miss Holbourne, for delaying 
you, but it is my fate once more to prove your postman. 
You drove a hard bargain for the last letter I brought you. 
I have one now for you, postage paid." 

Grace lifted her eyes, and at once recognised her tor- 
mentor of the fancy fair. 

" Mr. Donaldson ! I know all about you now, 
though I didn't then," and Grace frankly extended 
her hand — " I know you are one of Charlie's dearest 

" First let me present my credentials," replied the 
dramatist, as he handed her a letter ; " and then, if you 
do not mind extending your walk, I have a further 
message for you." 

Grace turned about directly, and the two paced on for 
a few moments in silence. 

" It would make my mission much easier, Miss Hol- 
bourne, if you would first read your letter. My only 
desire — my only errand here is to serve both you and 
Charlie. You will see what he says — I can tell you 
afterwards what I am further commissioned to say. Let 
us stroll quietly on while you master the contents of 
that epistle. Don't trouble yourself about speaking to 
me till you feel inclined." 

Slowly the pair sauntered on, Grace absorbed in her 
letter, her companion somewhat amused at the idea of 

336 False Cards. 

assisting in a genuine comedy of real life — a subject on 
which his brains had been so often exercised. 

Charlie's letter was honest and straightforward. He 
somewhat deprecated the step he was urging her to take, 
but he argued there was no help for it. "As things 
stand, Gracie, there is no prospect of my ever being wel- 
comed as wooer of yours. Home, I know, must be most 
distateful to you ; you have been ousted from your 
proper place, and Marion Langworthy has been set over 
your head. It is impossible to contend with her influence 
over your father at present. We can but trust to time 
to open his eyes. Have you courage, dearest — have you 
confidence enough in me to give yourself to me at once ? 
I can find you a home, if not so luxurious as that which 
you will discard, at all events a happier one. Were 
your father untrammelled — were his eyes not blinded — I 
would wait patiently for better times ; but while Miss 
Langworthy reigns at Aldringham, I see no prospect of 
a change in our favour. I had scarce ventured to urge 
you to this step, had it not your brother's approval. He 
knows all, Gracie, and I have his warrant for saying he 
will receive and take care of you till our marriage takes 
place. Think over it well, darling. If you can but 
make up your mind t o it, I am sure it will prove best for 
both of us. You will shrink, perhaps, at the idea of 
elopement, but remember your brother will meet you in 
London, and that our wedding will be sanctioned at all 
events by him." 

There were at least a couple of pages more special 
pleading, winding up with an intimation that the bearer 
was fully conversant with the outlines of the case, and 
that unlimited trust might be reposed in him. Miss 
Holbourne coloured deeply as, after the perusal of her 
letter, she turned to her companion, and remarked, with 
no little asperity, 

"I presume this effusion was submitted to your judg- 
ment before it was closed ? " 

" Mine ! Excuse me, Miss Holbourne ; in the delicate 
situation in which I stand with respect to you at present 
I can afford no mistakes. That you are engaged to my 
most intimate friend against the approval of your father, 

sin jziopcmenz. 337 

I am, of course, aware — also that you are forbidden to 
receive his letters ; I undertook, at his desire, to give you 
that, and further promised to do your bidding after you 
had read it." 

" Forgive me ! " cried Grace ; " but I am so bewildered, 
I scarce know whom to trust, or what to do." 

" Don't think me presumptuous or intrusive," returned 
Donaldson, quietly, " but, Miss Holbourne, I have known 
Charlie for years, and you may trust him. I have seen 
him hardly tried, and never knew him fail. What he 
may have urged you to do, I don't know, though perhaps 
I may guess. As I have already said, I am only here to 
do your bidding. I am a stranger to you, but, believe 
me, you will have no cause to regret such confidence as 
you may please to bestow upon me." 

For a few minutes they walked on in silence. At last 
Grace said abruptly, 

" When do you return to town, Mr. Donaldson ? " 

" When I have your permission. Unless you conceive 
my stay can be of benefit to you, I shall leave by the 
mid-day train to-morrow. But, as I said before, I have 
come here to be of use to you, if I can." 

"Listen ! " exclaimed Miss Holbourne, eagerly, " I can 
give you no answer now. You doubtless form some idea 
of what it is that Charlie has asked me to do. It is no 
light step that he calls upon me to take. I must have 
time to think over it. But I will let you know to-mor- 
row morning. You are staying at ' The George,' I 
suppose ? I dare not send you a note there ; but if I 
pass the door between eleven and twelve, don't leave 
Aldringham till the six o'clock train. If you don't see 
me, your mission is ended ; if you do, consider that you 
have charge of me to town. Now please continue your 
walk a little further. If we were seen together, Aldring- 
ham would have a restless night consequent upon the 
consideration of my case. Good-bye Mr. Donaldson," 
continued Grace, as she extended her hand. " I thank 
you for what you have already done, and gratefully 
acknowledge the kindness which has induced you to 
devote so much time to my service. Charlie must teach 

338 False Cards. 

me how best to repay you." And, with a graceful 
reverence, Miss Holbourne turned homewards, 

The dramatist, having struggled through the dire 
dinner characteristic of a country inn, betook himself to 
the study of life in the local billiard-room. As he 
listened languidly to the vapid chaff and converse of the 
choice spirits of Aldringham, he recognised woefully 
that friendship had its duties. Consumed with weari- 
ness, while the clock still asserted that it was but half- 
past ten, he thought ferociously over those malignant 
irreclaimable liars who had written about taking their 
ease at an inn. 

However, there's a conclusion to all things. Evenings 
at country inns have an end, and at last Donaldson sought 
his pillow. At eleven he was lounging on the steps with 
a cigar between his lips ; at about half-past he saw Miss 
Holbourne approaching. She raised her veil as she drew 
near, so as to thoroughly expose her face, although she 
never once glanced at the door of the hotel, She passed 
rapidly, and although he remained there some time 
longer he saw her no more. Still his instructions were 
now clear, and after passing what seemed a nearly inter- 
minable day, Donaldson, at a quarter to six, betook him- 
self to the station. He had not to wait long before he 
espied Miss Holbourne walking on to the platform, with 
a small travelling bag in her hand. She passed him close, 
favoured him with a significant glance, deposited her 
bag upon one of the seats, and then betook herself to 
the bookstall, where she commenced turning over the 
periodicals. There Donaldson at once joined her. A 
slip of paper fluttered from her fingers in front of him. 

"Do what I ask you," she whispered, nervously; and, 
dropping her veil, she disappeared quickly into the ladies' 

Donaldson glanced over the slip of paper. The instruc- 
tions were clear and brief: 

" Take me a ticket for town — put my bag into a 
carriage, and reserve a seat for me. Stand outside the 
door so that I may know into which carriage to get. I 
shall join you at the last moment. I am afraid of seeing 
somebody I know. Telegraph to my brother to meet me." 

An Elopement. 339 

As for the telegraphing, that had been done hours ago, 
Shortly after Miss Holbourne had passed the steps of the 
" George," Donaldson had sent off a message to Charlie, 
to meet the nine train at King's Cross, and bring 
Reginald Holbourne with him. He pounced at once 
upon the bag, procured a couple of tickets, and on the 
arrival of the train, lounged carelessly in front of the 
carriage he had selected. As the bell rang, Grace, closely 
veiled, emerged from the waiting room, passed quickly 
across the platform, and jumped in without speaking. 

A shrill whistle, and the train glided from the station. 
Miss Holbourne's elopement was a thing accomplished. 

" A new experience this altogether," mused the drama- 
tist, " running away with a young lady to oblige a friend. 
Levanting with another maris fiancee in consonance with 
his own instructions. I trust Charlie and Holbourne will 
be there to meet us, or the situation will become farcical as 
far as I am concerned, although, poor girl, she would 
scarcely appreciate the absurdity of her position." 

With the exception of a sleepy old gentleman, they had 
the carriage to themselves, but Grace was evidently too 
much agitated for conversation. 

" You are very kind, Mr. Donaldson," she replied, in 
answer to some commonplace remark that he had made, 
" but I am too nervous to talk. Pray excuse me." 

And so they travelled on in silence towards London. 

As they neared their destination, Grace became more 
and more troubled in her mind. She knew well how so 
bold a step as she had taken would be commented on 
when it became known to Aldringham. She almost 
dreaded to meet her lover for fear he should hold her in 
less esteem for yielding to his urgent entreaties. She 
shrank back back in her place as the train swept into the 
terminus, and seemed to derive but little consolation 
when her escort informed her that he saw both Colling- 
ham and her brother awaiting them on the platform. It 
was with jealous eyes she scanned Charlie as he advanced 
to greet her, to gather, if she could, whether he regarded 
her more lightly for her rashness. But his manner did 
much to re-assure her. 

"I can never thank you sufficiently, Grace," he whis- 

34° False Cards. 

pered, gravely, "for this great proof of your trust in me. 
I will say no more now, for you are doubtless worried and 
tired with all the anxiety this step has cost you. The 
sooner Reginald can get you home the better." And 
beyond a warm pressure of the hand as she drove off with 
her brother, Charlie's welcome was made. 

It may sound slight greeting to a girl whom he had 
induced to leave her home for his sake, but in her present 
mood Grace appreciated it far more highly than had it 
been warmer. It showed she had not lost her place in 
his esteem, and she was far more anxious about that just 
now than about what hold she might have of his heart. 
She felt secure of the latter, but concerning the former 
she had been distracted with nervous misgivings — uncalled 
for though they might be. 



T is open to question whether Aldringham had 
ever tasted the full flavour of scandal until the 
day that succeeded Miss Holbourne's elopement 
High flavoured gossip they were accustomed to 
stories had gone around about many of their 
citizens, and Aldringham, with untiring tongue and bated 
breath, had uttered never-ending commentaries on these 
miserable back-sliders. But here was a young lady, 
whose personal attractions and winning manners had 
naturally made as many foes as friends, who had taken 
the desperate step of leaving her father's roof without 
his knowledge or sanction. Aldringham wept over her, 
but declared itself not astonished. 

I have always held that most of our nursery ballads 
are allegorical. That famous one commencing " Sing a 
song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye," is undoubtedly so 
— rye, by the way, an evidently mistaken spelling of wry. 
It, of course, refers to a suspected scandalous story, of 
which the thin crust of propriety has not as yet been 
shivered — " And when the pie was open the birds began 
to sing," the veil is rent, and the tongues of the public 
are at length loosened — " And was not that a pretty dish 
to set before the king ? " that is to say, was not this 
a pretty case to bring to the notice of the constituted 

34 2 False Cards. 

Well, the pie was open, and the birds were singing in 
Aldringham at a great rate, albeit somewhat in the dark 
as to how Miss Holbourne had fled. Thanks to the pre 
cautions she had taken at the station, no one had seen or 
guessed her departure thence. The booking clerk was 
quite positive he had issued no ticket to Miss Holbourne ; 
a porter had been found who certainly did recollect seeing 
her at the station that evening, but no one was found to 
testify to her departure by the train. These enquiries 
were instituted by Aldringham generally, with a view to 
assuaging its curiosity on the subject. 

As for the banker he knew all there was to tell that 
very evening. Grace had left a note behind her implor- 
ing her father's forgiveness, declaring that it was beyond 
her strength to break her troth and give up Charlie 
Collingham ; yet still vehemently asserting that nothing 
should have induced her to take so extreme a step, had 
not Marion stepped between her and himself. 

"She stands, father, between you and your children. 
Reginald and I both feel we are powerless to contend against 
her malignant influence. How persistently she has made 
home miserable to me, I oannot describe. It is not easy 
to do so. I can allege nothing against her ; and yet I 
know that my lightest word was watched, weighed, and, 
in many cases, twisted ii geniously to my disadvantage. 
She has your ear, father, which your children have lost. 
When her tongue sings our praises distrust her most, for, 
be assured, you will think worse of us afterwards than you 
do now. At present she triumphs, but I trust the time 
may come when you will acknowledge that my conduct 
was not without excuse. Your ever loving daughter, 

" Gracie." 

Miss Holbourne's absence had first become apparent at 
dinner-time, some two hours after she had left the house. 
The note reached her father's hands within twenty 
minutes of the discovery. Though she did not exactly 
say that she was going to her brother's, she explained 
that she should be at all events under his protection, so 
that Mr. Holbourne was absolved from any great anxiety 
on her account. To say that he was not grievously per- 
turbed at the flight of his daughter would be to wrong 

Mr. LigJitfoot Becomes Exacting. 343 

him much. He was wondrous silent at dinner. He 
informed Marion curtly that her cousin had gone sud- 
denly to town without asking his sanction, and that 
Reginald was to take care of her. Miss Langworthy 
angled throughout the meal, with most praiseworthy 
perseverance, for a sight of Grace's note ; but her uncle 
failed to take the hint, and retired abruptly to his study 
when dinner was concluded. 

Marion, meanwhile, mused considerably over this new 
phase of affairs. She was not altogether unprepared for 
it — indeed had exerted herself not a little to bring it 
about ; but Grace's flight had rather taken her by sur- 
prise. It was exactly what she had hoped to compass, 
but she had intended to be a good deal more behind the 
scenes regarding that elopement when it should occur 
than she was at present. Had she as yet anticipated such 
a move on her cousin's part, she would have exercised 
more vigilance concerning her. She would not have 
lifted a finger to prevent it, but she would have been at 
some pains to obtain sight of such missive as Grace might 
leave behind her, in explanation of the step she had 
taken. Had that letter reached Marion's fingers, it had 
never gained Mr. Holbourne's. Miss Langworthy is not 
a little discomposed that she so far failed to get a sight of 
that epistle. True, she is left entire mistress of her 
uncle's house — the position she was aiming at — but those 
last words of her cousin's might contain facts that needed 
prompt refutation. She must see that letter, if possible ; 
she felt that she had to confront an unknown danger till 
she was aware of its contents. The banker was evi- 
dently strongly moved by the whole business, and Miss 
Langworthy deemed that she might encounter stormy 
weather before long in the prosecution of her nefarious 

Marion was not a whit dismayed by the idea. Intrigue 
was to her as the air she breathed ; she rose in spirit to 
the difficulties of the moment ; the more imminent the 
dissolution of her fine-spun diplomacy, the more indus- 
trious was she in repairing the rents thereof — the quicker 
in improvising fresh schemes in support of it — the more 
daring in her manoeuvres to baffle such attacks. But a 

344 False Cards. 

Nemesis she wots not of as yet is already threatening 
her — a ravening spirit that she has herself evoked — a 
horse-leech to which she voluntarily stretched forth her 
hand — a slave with a thirst for gold insatiable, and a 
most accurate estimate of how much she is within his 
power — a spirit she has been bold enough to raise, 
but will find somewhat difficult to lay. When Miss 
Langworthy was rash enough to sign that bill which 
Mr. Lightfoot had the audacity to send her, she delivered 
herself utterly into his hands. 

Mr. Holbourne, in his study, sits moody and dejected, 
his daughter's letter still clasped between his fingers. 
He was out of spirits before. The run on the bank 
consequent on Aldringham gossip had irritated him. 
Though nothing more than the firm could easily meet, it 
had chafed him to be even suspected of insolvency. His 
quarrel with his son had rankled far more in his mind 
than he cared to admit. Now came the flight of his 
daughter, and the banker knew well that would be the 
talk of the town next day. He thought a good deal 
over Grace's letter. He loved his children dearly. Was 
her accusation true, that he had allowed his niece to come 
between him and them ? He turned this over and over 
again in his mind, and still he could arrive at no con- 
clusion. Still there was the hard fact that at this 
moment he stood divided from them. In what manner 
had he forfeited his claim to their obedience ? On this 
count Mr. Holbourne most thoroughly absolved himself. 
If a father had not the right to step between his child 
and an imprudent marriage, what right of interference 
with his children did he possess ? And yet Mr. Holbourne 
argued that was the sole tyranny that either his son or 
daughter could lay to his charge. And who, in a worldly 
point of view, could say that he was not justified in inter- 
posing in both cases ? 

Still, as the banker reflected how entirely he had 
yielded the management of his household to Miss 
Langworthy, he could but acknowledge, with a slight 
tinge of reproach, that he had given his daughter some 
cause for feminine jealousy. The guidance of his estab- 
lishment was hers by right; but surely that was not 

Mr. Lightfoot Becomes Exacting. 345 

sufficient cause to justify a daughter in withdrawing her- 
self from her father's protection. He utterly failed to 
comprehend Grace's letter. He did not understand her 
passionate denunciation of her cousin. He deemed her 
hurt because the keys were not in her keeping. He never 
thought her heart might be sore at seeing Marion pre- 
ferred to a confidence from which she was excluded 
Finally, Mr. Holbourne rose, and wended his way to his 
chamber, sad, but self-acquitted. Like Lear, he suffered 
from the misconduct of his unduteous progeny. 

The next morning's post brought a slight shiver to 
Marion, as she recognized the well-known handwriting of 
that secret agent of hers, Mr. Lightfoot. Business, he 
said, had brought him unexpectedly to Aldringham. It 
was necessary that he should see Miss Langworthy on the 
subject of that bill she had given him a short time back, 
as it was just due. He had also important information 
to communicate concerning Lettice Cheslett. Would 
Miss Langworthy grant him an interview ? He would 
be at the first milestone on the Thrapstone road at foui 
that afternoon, in hope that Miss Langworthy might 
condescend to be there also. 

He was her Old Man of the Sea. Marion's heart 
turned sick as she felt intuitively that she should never 
succeed in shaking him off. Fifty pounds was the amount 
of that liability, and Miss Langworthy reflected with a 
sigh that she was no more the possessor of that sum than 
when she signed that evil bit of paper two months ago. 
What would happen if she didn't pay, Marion had no 
idea. She had, however, a hazy idea that there would 
be an expose of some sort, and that consequently it was a 
thing which it behoved her to arrange somehow. So, a 
little before four, Miss Langworthy took her hat and 
walked out upon the Thrapstone road. As she neared 
her tryst, Mr. Lightfoot rose from the milestone on which 
he was seated, and with prompt alacrity advanced to meet 

" Well, sir," exclaimed Marion haughtily, as he raised 
his hat, " I have attended at your bidding. I presume 
money is your object. You may as well know at. once 
that I have none." 

346 False Cards. 

" So commonplace an occurence, as far as regards my 
experience of humanity, Miss Langworthy, that you can 
scarcely expect me to affect surprise at your announce- 
ment. But you have hit the truth, with your accustomed 
perspicuity. Money is my object, — money I must have." 

" But I tell you I have none ! " 

" Exactly. When we have no money, the next thing 
to consider is what we have that represents money," 
replied the unabashed Lightfoot. 

" You mean, have I jewels, or anything of that des- 
cription ! Whether I have s>r not, I have no intention 
of parting with them," said Marion curtly. 

"She has jewelry," thought the adventurer. "You 
are quick of understanding, Miss Langworthy," he con- 
tinued deferently. " Will you allow me to observe that 
an accepted bill of yours is just due, and requires taking 

"How if I fail, sir?" 

" I should be afraid there would be unpleasantness. 
My friend, Mr. Hartz, who negotiated it, is an inestimable 
man, but somewhat rigorous about business matters. 
In short, Miss Langworthy, he'd sell up his first-born if 
he omitted to meet his bill when due." 

" And supposing I let things take their course ? " in- 
quired Marion. 

"I should be afraid your arrest for debt would be the 
speedy consequence. But if you don't like to part with 
your jewels, you have still yonr name, which represents 

" I don't understand you." 

" If Miss Langworthy will attach her name to this," 
replied Lightfoot, producing an oblong strip of paper, 
" it will enable me to quash the bill now falling due, and 
also to discharge her debt to me regarding expenses 
incurred in tracing Lettice Cheslett." 

" You have found her, then ! Where is she ? " cried 
Marion eagerly. 

" Sign, and you shall know," retorted the tempter, as 
he produced pen and ink from his pocket. 

Miss Langworthy took the slip of paper and gazed at 
it for a moment. 

Mr Lightfoot Becomes Exacting. 347 

" Why, this is for one hundred ! " she exclaimed. 

" Yes ; interest and expenses of renewal ; recompense 
to self in re matter of Lettice Cheslett ; it couldn't be well 

" I'll never sign it ! " cried Marion indignantly. 

" It must be as you like, but as sure as you stand there, 
old Hartz will cause your arrest the first time your foot 
crosses the threshold after Sunday next." 

Miss Langworthy paused. She felt she was in the 
toils. She was powerless to resist the merciless pressure 
put upon her. To be arrested for debt in Aldringham ! 
it was not to be thought of. Three months more and 
her ascendancy over her uncle might be so complete that 
she could compass this sum upon some pretext — ay, even 
if she admitted culpable extravagance. Besides, it was 
necessary that she should know what had become of that 
Cheslett girl. 

Her mind was made up. 

" Give it me," she said, " I will sign ; " and in another 
second Marion's autograph figured at the foot of that 
ominous piece of paper. " Now what of Lettice 
Cheslett ?" she ejaculated fiercely, as she handed back 
the bill to her companion. 

" She is living at Sir John Collingham's, Churton 
Park," replied Lightfoot deliberately, " and has been 
there nearly a month." 

" At Churton ! " gasped Miss Langworthy. " You are 
sure ? " 

" Perfectly so," he replied, as he eyed her narrowly. 
" Have you any further commands for me ?" 

" No," said Marion in a low voice, as she turned 
abruptly on her heel and walked rapidly back to the 

" Not a woman of business," muttered Mr. Lightfoot, 
" or she would have insisted on having the first bill back. 
As it is, I shall renew that, if possible, and negotiate this. 
If it comes to the worst, and she has no jewels to speak 
©f to meet 'em with, her uncle's safe to settle it sooner 
than have a blow up in the papers. If old Hartz isn't 
too hungry for his money, she ought to be worth about 
as much more. Anyway I can't be touched, and we 

348 False Cards. 

must take such windfalls as come in our way. It strikes 
me she had fair information for her money to-day, judg- 
ing from the way she took it." 

ei Lettice Cheslett at Churton ! " muttered Marion, as, 
wrapping her shawl close about her, she walked swiftly 
homeward. " I had a presentiment, when I saw that 
girl in Baker Street, she was my evil destiny. I deemed 
I crushed her beneath my feet, that I swept her from 
my path that afternoon. Now she confronts me again. 
It is odd I have not heard of her sooner, if she is esta- 
blished in Churton ! Stay, now I think of it, Grace did 
say something, a week or two back, of some girl that 
had come down as a companion to Sylla Collingham, 
but who was immediately struck down with fever, and 
seemed as if she would hardly get through it. Can that 
be Lettice ? It must be. I don't think she can work 
me much harm. Yet Reginald is sure to hear of her 
being at Churton from his sister. Still as long as she 
does not identify me with her visitor in Baker Street, 
no harm can come of it. Fortunately I seldom trouble 
Churton, so that my eschewing it for the next couple of 
months, will not give occasion for remark. I can't see 
that she can work me woe in any shape, still I do wish 
she was a hundred miles away ! " With which last reflec- 
tion, Marion rang at her uncle's house. 

That Miss Cheslett was going under another name in 
Sir John's family, Miss Langworthy was of course as yet 



HO is this, Reginald ? " inquired Grace, as she 
gazed inquisitively at a photograph that, 
mounted in a stand, held a conspicuous 
place on her brother's writing-table. It was 
the morning after her flight, and the girl was fluttering 
nervously about the sitting-room, too ill at ease at pre- 
sent to rest quiet. For though Miss Holbourne had 
hardened her heart to the extent of running away to get 
married, she suffered sore twinges of apprehension that 
she had behaved very badly to her father, and that her 
character was likely to be hardly dealt with by the gos- 
siping tongues she had left behind her. 

"That?" rejoined her brother, somewhat moodily— 
"nobody you ever saw; but she will be your sister, 
Grace, I hope, some day." 

" I don't know— I can't help thinking I have seen her," 
rejoined Miss Holbourne, musingly, although I can't sav 
where. Tell me her name, Regi." 

" Lettice Cheslett. Now are you satisfied ? Did you 
ever hear of her ? " 

" No, I never heard that name before ; and yet I fancy 
I have seen this face. Ah ! I recollect now who it is 
that this photograph reminds me of— it's very like that 
girl who has come down as companion to Sylla Col- 
lingham ; but then, poor thing, as I only saw her in 
bed vith her hair all cut off, and delirious -" 

35° False Cards. 

Suddenly Grace stopped aghast. She recollected now 
what that sick girl had uttered in her wandering talk, 
and knew that it was her likeness she now looked upon. 
She bent over the picture for a few seconds, then turned 
to steal a look at her brother. He was at her side. 

" What is all this ? " he said, in a hoarse whisper. 
" Is Lettice at Churton, and dangerously ill ? Speak 
quick ! Tell me what you know." 

" I will," faltered Grace. " A Miss Melton, who came 
as companion to Sylla, was seized with fever the day after 
her arrival. She lies dangerously ill there now. But, 
Reginald, I won't deceive you — I am telling you the 
exact truth — the doctor pronounced the crisis past before 
I left Aldringham. She is still not out of danger, but 
has got safely through the worst." 

" Do they take care of her ? Are they kind to her ? " 
he asked, almost roughly. 

" Be easy on that point. Sylla herself tends her as if 
she were a sister. All that care and nursing can do for 
her, she has. Reginald." continued Grace in a low voice, 
" I watched by her bedside one afternoon with Sylla. 
She wandered much, poor thing, in her talk. Suddenly 
she mentioned your name, and called upon you to stand 
between her and some other woman." 

Reginald's face grew dark. 

" I begin to understand," he said. " What more did 
she say ? " 

" Nothing," replied Grace. " Do you love her very 
much ? " she whispered timidly. 

" So much," he answered sternly, " that if I lose her, I 
have lost everything. Will she live ? " 

"Reginald! Reginald" cried his sister, as she threw 
her arms about him, " don't ask such questions ! Her 
life trembled in the balance at one time — it may be, 
does still ; but the doctor has great hope." 

" Sit down, Grade," he said, releasing himself gently 
from her embrace — " I must have news — constant news, 
mind, of how Lettice goes on. How am I to obtain it ? 
Think. Whom can you or I trust to for daily intelli- 
gence ? " 

" I might write to Sylla ; but then poor Sylla must 

An Irregular Wedding. 351 

trust to other eyes for the rendering of my note. Besides, 
Reginald, my own whereabouts is awkward to call atten- 
tion to. You forget how I am situated at present." 
And Miss Holbourne dropped her head upon her hand 
somewhat moodily. 

" True. Forgive me, Grade, I forgot your troubles in 
thinking of my own. But we mean to put a speedy end 
to yours, my sister." 

Grade raised her head with a bright blush. Her lover 
was to take her to himself next day, and the girl grew 
rosy-red at the thought of her runaway marriage. 

" Stay," she said, "you might write to Sylla yourself. 
Tell her as much or as little as you may deem necessary 
about your relations with Miss Melton — the less the 
better, I would say, remembering that it will be for other 
eyes to translate to her. Could she read it herself, I 
would say tell her all." 

" Yes, I think that will do. Sylla and I have ever been 
great friends, and as you say Lettice in her lightheaded- 
ness mentioned my name, she will easily guess that I 
have deep interest in her patient's well-doing. I will 
write at once, but I can't afford to be very communicative 
under the circumstances." 

For a few minutes there was silence between them, 
broken only by the slight scratching of Holbourne's pen. 
Suddenly Grace exclaimed — 

" Regi, who was the woman that Miss Melton seemed 
so afraid of ? " 

" Never mind — I don't know — that is, it is but con- 
jecture on my part. You will comprehend it all, if my 
guess is right, before long. Don't bother now, there's a 
good girl," and once more his pen travelled rapidly. 

Grace meditated for some time on this mysterious 
woman, from whom Lettice, in her delirum, had so 
shrunk ; but that it should be the image of Marion that 
had so haunted the poor fever-stricken girl's pillow, never 
for one instant crossed her imagination. Soon Grace's 
mind wandered off to the thought of the event that was 
to take place to-morrow. She could but feel pangs of 
remorse and misgiving concerning this wedding she was 
about to make, unhallowed by a parent's sanction. 

352 False Cards. 

Reverence for age, and respect for their progenitors, 
are two weaknesses that can scarcely be ascribed to the 
rising generation ; but Grace Holbourne was not of this 
kind, and she had honestly shed salt tears before she had 
left her father's roof to plunge into wedlock that he 
especially banned. Nothing but the conviction of Marion's 
undue influence over him — nothing but the apparent 
hopelessness of inducing the banker even to think of 
Charlie as a son-in-law— could have made Grace yield to 
her lover's entreaties. But Miss Langworthy's silvery 
tongue was hard to bear. Professing utter ignorance of 
the whole affair, she would indulge in the most scandalous 
fables of Charlie Collingham's wrong-doings, and make 
her cousin writhe under the libels she choose to dissemi- 
nate concerning him, which Grace, with her engagement 
all unlicensed of the authorities, was compelled to listen 
to in silence. The silken lash in practised hands stings 
sharper than the knotted dog-whip. Malicious sympathy 
is harder to bear even than the rough abuse of those that 
vilify our actions. 

" Grade," said Reginald Holbourne, as he finished his 
letter, " I have something to tell you, and though I have 
full liberty to do so, and it's something you ought to 
know, I don't mean to go into the story. I'll tell you 
why at once. You have heard all the rumours about 
Charlie's being married ? — you have had your life teased 
out of you on that point at Aldringham, I make no doubt. 
Is it not so ? " 

" It's been hard to bear that," said Grace, as she 
crossed the room, and knelt by her brother's side. 
" What is it ? — has he told you the secret of what he 
calls his Bluebeard chamber ? I have always had im- 
plicit faith in Charlie, or I could not venture on what I 
now do." 

" Yes, he has," replied her brother, as he stroked her 
silky tresses. " He has authorized me to tell it you, if 
I think good. My sister, there is nothing to prevent 
your marrying him, and I think it best you should heal 
the story from his own lips. There will be no Bluebeard's 
chamber between you and him after to-morrow; and, 
Grade, though he may not be rich, he does love you, 

An Irregular Wedding. 2>5'i 

and will take great care of you. Will that do, 'ittle 
woman ? " 

" Yes," she replied, as the blood mantled in her cheeks. 
"I think — I know — " And here Grace dropped her head 
npon her brother's shoulder. 

" Think what ? " said Reginald, laughing. 

" That you speak truth, you tease," replied his sister, 
as she jumped abruptly to her feet, and avenged herself 
by a sharp twist of his ear. 

"You treacherous viper!" exclaimed her brother. 
" Thank heaven ! to-morrow will see more legitimate 
bell-ropes at your disposal, and I shall suffer no longer 
from your infirmities of temper. But, Grace," he con- 
tinued, as his face fell, " do you think Sylla will send me 
news daily ? " 

"Yes," replied his sister, gravely; "but remember, 
Reginald, the girl is recovering from a terrible illness, 
and, if the reports are true, as I know they will be, they 
must be fluctuating. Make up your mind to hear good 
news one day, bad the next." 

"I have served my apprenticeship," replied Hol-bourne, 
in a low tone. "I have spent some gloomy evenings 
here since I lost sight of her ; but, hap what may, I must 
see her again. If die she must, she shall know, at all 
events, that I never swerved in my allegiance." 

" Reginald," said his sister, solemnly, " what made her 
put herself out of your reach, I don't know ; but it was 
neither want of love for you, nor of trust in you." 

Preposterous state of the elements ! If ever the 
heavens were called upon to weep, it was at the contem- 
plation of such an irregular wedding. Yet here was the 
sun blinking over this runaway November match, as if 
aiding and abetting the ceremony. Still it was such a 
marriage as no woman can read of without a shudder. 
Such a bridal ! Ye maidens of England who may dream 
of elopement, I pray you to reflect. Two cabs ! — think 
of this ! — out of which bundled — no words can be prosaic 
enough in which to describe such indecorous proceedings 
— from the one Reginald and his sister, from the other 
Charlie and Jim Donaldson. More earnestness, more 

354 False Cards. 

reality over the ceremony, perhaps, than when it is con- 
secrated by a bishop, and four horses are curveting in 
the bridal chariot. A quarter of an hour at the altar — 
an embrace from her brother, a warm clasp of the hand 
from Donaldson, and Grace is borne away by her husband, 
rich it may be in his love, but — trousseauless ! 

Iu the course of that afternoon Grace is taken to a 
quiet suburban churchyard, and shown a plain marble 
stone, inscribed as " Sacred to the memory of Lilian, wife 
of Charles Collingham, Esq., who departed this life in the 
twentieth year of her age." While she gazes reverently 
upon it, Charlie tells her the story of his dead love. 

" The love of my boyhood, Gracie, lies buried beneath 
that marble, and very dear to me she was at the time ; 
but the love of my manhood is yours. Strange wedding 
has been ours ! Never did man, perhaps, tell the story 
of his past life to his bride by the side of his first wife's 
tomb before. But you understand why I do this, Grace. 
There must never be secret between us more. I wanted 
you to understand my whole past at once, so that a cloud 
concerning it may never cross our future. I look back 
reverently on the wife of my youth — I look forward to 
happiness with her who holds the heart of my man- 

A quiet pressure of Grace's hand was Charlie's sole 
answer, and, in silence, they left that still resting-place of 
the departed. The wind sighed a requiem through the 
gnarled old yews as Collingham turned his back on the 
grave of her whom he had braved his father's wrath to 
wed. Fit monody over the wreck of that youthful passion. 
The wild love of his boyhood lies buried — the strong 
earnest love of the man fills its place. Gracie has won 
that honest resolute regard that, if it never burns so 
fiercely, yet never wanes, but maintains its steady glow, 
bright as when first kindled, till death stamps out the 



N a sofa, propped up with numerous cushions, in 
Sylla's own private sanctum, reclines Lettice, 
The dark hair is just beginning to curl again in 
short rings about her head, while the big black 
eyes are positively startling to encounter as they gleam 
upon you, appearing almost unnatural in size, when con- 
trasted with the shrunk, pallid face they look out from. 
Sylla hovers about her patient, in supreme delight at 
having nursed her thus far on the road to convalescence. 
But Miss Collingham's affliction spares her the discovery 
of what is becoming a source of grievous disquietude to 
the doctor, and one or two of the closer attendants on 
the sick girl. Lettice's nervous system is woefully un- 
hinged. There is a scared, frightened look in her eyes. 
The appearance of anybody except those she is thoroughly 
accustomed to see, causes her to tremble from head to 
foot. There is much difficulty about inducing her ta 
talk. She answers in monosyllables chiefly. Miss 
Collingham's maid tells the doctor Miss Melton is quite 
aware that she has been delirious, and at times exhibits 
a feverish curiosity to know what she might have said 
when her senses were beyond her control. It is the sole 
subject upon which she manifests any desire to be en- 
lightened. But that restless, hunted look, so habitual 
to the dark eyes now, is inexpressibly painful to witness. 

35 6 False Cards. 

It is in vain Sylla prattles cheerfully to the convalescent. 
Lettice listens with that uneasy expression that now so 
constantly haunts her face. Very brief are her replies, 
and made apparently with some effort. She seems to 
concentrate her mind with difficulty upon what is said to 
her, and only to comprehend it after severe mental 

" This won't do," muttered the doctor to himself, as he 
left the room, after his customary visit to his patient. 
l< We shall have that girl's mind permanently affected if 
we are not very careful. It is off its balance still, and if 
we can't get at what the trouble or fear that so per- 
sistently weighs upon her is, and remove her appre- 
hensions forthwith, the finish will be losing the equilibrium 
altogether. If one knew a little of her past life, one 
might get at the cause of her anxiety, might combat this 
nervous dread that so possesses her. She is in evident 
fear of some person who has wrought her much wrong, 
or occasioned her much sorrow, once more crossing her 
path. If she has done evil, poor child, she must have 
been more sinned against than otherwise." 

Impressed with these views, the doctor sought an in- 
terview with Sir John, and told him his ideas of Lettice's 
case. The Baronet had a much deeper vein of tenderness 
underlying his granite exterior than the world generally 
gave him credit for, though, like many men of his stamp, 
he was wonderously afraid of giving vent to such weak- 
ness. No uncommon thing, if you study mankind. Men 
and women are rife enough in this world who studiously 
conceal the best side of their characters — more especially 
the former. They are so apt to dread the ridicule that 
might attach to the discovery of the sentiment that lies 
beneath the crust of cynicism they affect. In the present 
age particularly men are very chary of yielding to such 
temptation, and indulge their feelings in that respect 
principally by stealth. 

Sir John was emphatically a man of action. He 
listened attentively to what the doctor had to say, then 
rang the bell at once, and desired that his daughter might 
be summoned. 

" Sylla attended her through most of her ravings," 

Convalescence. 357 

he said, " let's hear if she can piece this puzzle together 
for us." 

"What is it, my father?" said Sylla quietly, as she 
glided into the room attended by Dandy. " You must 
not keep me long, as I don't like leaving Lettice alone. 
Ah ! you here, doctor ! " she exclaimed, as her quick 
hearing detected the presence of a third person. 

There is nothing remarkable about this identification 
of the worthy medico. The good man employed a 
country bootmaker, and his boots consequently cele- 
brated his movements in shrill chorus. Sylla's ears of 
late had grown familiar with their ominous creaking. 

Sylla was much distressed when her father told her 
what Dr. Meddlicott feared, and what it was that they 
required of her. 

"My dear young lady," urged the doctor, "if you 
cannot give us some clue to what it is that so weighs 
upon Miss Melton's mind, I don't know how we are to 
combat her apprehensions. But if something is not done 
speedily, I augur serious and permanent injury to her un- 
derstanding. This fever has been the result of some 
great shock to her feelings. We have arrived at a stage 
now when it is of the last importance to ascertain what 
the nature of that shock was. We must find out what it 
is she evidently dreads. As far as I can judge, she is in 
terror of meeting some person. Can you help us ? " 

Then Sylla told them all she knew. How in her 
delirium Lettice had at times shrunk and cowered as if 
beneath the lash of some woman's pitiless scorn ; and how, 
finally, she had called upon Reginald Holbourne to shield 
her — to stand between her and that merciless woman. 

The Baronet uttered a slight ejaculation of astonish- 
ment as Reginald's name passed his daughter's lips, and 
when she had finished, said : 

" Thanks, Sylla, that will do. You had better leave 
Dr. Meddlicott and me to talk things over now. You 
recollect, doctor," he continued, as the door closed 
behind Miss Collingham, " that there was much gossip 
about young Holbourne and some lady in London a few 
months back. It is no irrelevant conclusion to come to 
now, that your patient was the lady in question." 

358 False Cards. 

" Just so, just so," replied the doctor ; " but that will 
help us very little as regards dissipating this fear of some 
woman unknown which so possesses Miss Melton. Can 
you divine at all, Sir John, who this woman may 

"Not in the least." 

For a few minutes the doctor was wrapped in thought. 
At last, raising his head, he observed : 

" We can wait a little longer if you like, but I don't 
think it will make any difference. If that girl's to become 
herself again, we must send for Reginald Holbourne." 

" I don't like to do that," replied the Baronet. " As, 
you know, he has quarrelled with his father, I should 
hardly wish to be looked upon as supporting him in the 
affair, and that of course it would appear to the neigh- 

The doctor was a sturdy, clever man, who paid little 
reverence to king or kaiser when he deemed the neces- 
sities of his art called upon him for plain speaking. 

" Sir John," he exclaimed, " this is no time to stickle 
about proprieties, or what the gossips of Aldringham 
may say. I tell you, as medical man in charge of the 
case, unless that girl gets speedy mental relief, her mind 
will never recover its balance. I have done all that lies 
in my power. I see but one hope of averting what, 
mark me, is surely-impending insanity. I can't put it too 
plain. Of course there may be other springs of the mind 
we could touch, if we did but know them. We don't. 
We can but have recourse to the one we do. She must 
see Reginald Holbourne. What Aldringham may say 
has never been of much account with you." 

" Aldringham ! " replied the Baronet, while his lip 
curled. "No, I don't think, at Churton, we have ever 
tro ^led our heads about what Aldringham thought con- 
cerning our doings. But Holbourne is an old friend of 
mine, ar >^ I don't like to appear to take his son's part 
against him." 

" And for such a mere punctilio," retorted the doctor, 
hotly, " you would see that poor girl upstairs permanently 
bereft of reason." 

"I don't sav that," interrupted the Baronet, quickly, 

Convalescence. 359 

" I only say it is awkward, and I wish there were some 
other way." 

" Then if, three days hence, I tell you it is imperative, 
you will do what I want ? " 

" Yes, providing no other scheme can be hit upon in 
the meanwhile." 

"Thanks, Sir John, and you may thoroughly depend 
upon me to suggest one if I can, but at present I see no 
other alternative. Good morning," and the little doctor 
creaked out of the room. 

The Baronet pondered a good deal during the day over 
the awkwardness of sending for Reginald Holbourne. 
He, of all men in the world, should be the last to sup- 
port a son who opposed his father. He had meted out 
stern and uncompromising sentence to his own offspring. 
How was he to side apparently against his old 
friend under similar circumstances ? He recalled, some- 
what sadly, how sharply he had rebuffed all those who 
would have fain said a word in Charlie's behalf; and 
though he would not acknowledge it to himself, yet at 
the bottom of his heart lurked a faint suspicion that he 
would have done better if he had acted with less severity 
in that business. But Charlie had been dauntless and 
unyielding as his father in the matter. His blood had 
been up, and all the old obstinate Collingham temper 
surged through his veins. He had even, in his wrath, 
scorned all attempt to right himself in his father's eyes, 
even when he ascertained the mistake under which Sir 
John laboured. It must be admitted that he did not 
think the Baronet would approve of the daughter-in- 
law he had given him, very much more than if she were 
the questionable lady Sir John deemed her. But there 
Charlie was wrong. An imprudent marriage is a very 
different thing from a tainted one. And had his father 
known the rights of the story, it is probable that the 
sun might at last have gone down on his wrath. 

Still the Baronet mused over the awkwardness of the 
situation. What Reginald Holbourne's actual relations 
might have been with this girl suddenly flashes across 
him as another delicate point that he would desire to be 
enlightened upon. But after a few minutes' cogitation 

360 False Cards. 

he does Lettice justice. That fair, frank face carries 
its own justification with it. Whatever her connection 
may be with Reginald, he feels that it is one that can 
never call the blush of shame to her cheek. 

That evening brings to him the tidings that Grace has 
fled from her father's roof, and now Sir John feels indeed 
that interference in the banker's affairs requires more 
than ever to be approached delicately. He had not been 
in Aldringham for a couple of days, or he would have 
known of it forty-eight hours sooner. He is very 
grieved about this. He is very fond of his god-daughter, 
in his own way, and is stricken with a terrible fear that she 
has fled at the bidding of that discarded son of his, whom 
Sir John firmly believes to be still fettered to a worthless 
woman. He sighs heavily as he thinks what a harvest 
of shame and sorrow she is sowing for herself. " Well, 
he did all he could," he wrote, "and warned her 
that Charlie was already married, and that if he had 
dared whisper words of love to her, he was guilty of rank 
and reckless perjury. But when will girls believe their 
elders on such points ? She knew that he and Charlie 
had quarrelled. Of course he had small difficulty in per- 
suading her that his father's statements were sheer 
malice, and utterly untrue. How grieved Sylla would 
be about it." Then he wondered whether she had any 
inkling of the elopement ? Of her brother's love affair 
with Grace he of course knew she was cognizant. 

When thunder's about, showers are want to be plenti- 
ful. When Fortune takes to astonish you for either 
good or evil, it at times proceeds quickly as a panorama. 
You progress up or down with a velocity past realizing. 
Before you have quite awoke to the comfort of clean 
sheets, you are called upon to appreciate fine linen and 
delicate viands. On the other hand, before you have 
quite arrived at an understanding of the scarcity of 
loose silver, you find yourself ruminating on how much 
nutriment may be obtained for twopence, and how, by 
your individual exertions, you are to make twopence 
more when that is expended. You think I exaggerate- 
Not at all. But I have seen the man who " has struck 
ile," and he who has struck the Old Bailey. From the 

Convalescence. 361 

West-end clubs to the hulks, from " Poverty Flat" to the 
salons of New York, is but a jump. A few weeks have 
often produced such results. Fortune is capricious in 
her runs for either good or evil, and things are going 
badly with Mr. Holbourne just now. 

Sir John has hardly, after a night's rest, made up his 
mind as to what steps it behoves him to take. He is 
pledged to the doctor that Reginald Holbourne shall be 
summoned if there is no amelioration of Lettice's state 
in three days. But how, is another matter. Shall he 
ask him openly to Churton, or tell him to come quietly 
to the Dornton Station, instead of Aldringham, receive 
him surreptitiously, and keep his visit, if possible, from 
the banker's ears ? 

All these reflections are scattered to the wind by the 
arrival of the post. Amongst his letters, Sir John recog- 
nises one in Grace's hand, and that letter causes an 
entire change of tactics on the Baronet's part. He was 
not a man of many weaknesses or affections. His son 
and heir, Robert Collingham, he regarded with polite 
indifference. They were upon excellent terms, but the 
Baronet looked upon his son as somewhat of a prig ; 
and might have felt more affection for him had his con- 
duct been less irreproachable. The feeling may be 
wrong, but it is, nevertheless, generally the cast that 
there is always a sneaking sympathy for the black sheep 
of this world, provided they are not dyed of too inky a 
hue. Those parti-coloured stray lambs are always much 
pitied by friends and relations. Indiscretions of theirs 
are glossed over that would call down shrieks of repro- 
bation if committed by their more immaculate brethren. 
We are so glad it is no worse in the one case ; so shocked 
that the ermine should be stained in the other. 

Next to his daughter stood Grace in the Baronet's 
rugged heart, and her letter made the stern old man 
pace his study with quick, impetuous steps. Once more 
he reads it attentively over. 

" My dear godfather," it ran, " I have thrown your 
counsel to the winds, am Charlie's wife, and now ask you 
to acknowledge me as a daughter. People deem you 
hard of heart — they don't know you — I do. Harsh, 

362 False Cards. 

perhaps, when you think you have been wronged, but 
just even to those who have offended you. I don't ask 
you to forgive Charlie for my sake, but I do ask you to 
hear his story. Believe me, you don't know the truth of 
that previous marriage. Has he married to please you 
this time ? Ah ! Sir John, who is to make peace for 
me with my father, if you decline ? — and though I have 
braved his anger, I need his forgiveness sorely. He 
thinks so much of your opinion. My chief hope of 
reconciliation with him lies in you. I plead for myself 
— I plead for my husband. Hear him first, and then let 
me tell you my story, I had more excuse for leaving 
my father's house than you dream of; I was hardly 
tried before I yielded to Charlie's entreaties. My god- 
father, if you are stern, you are just. Don't condemn 
us till you have heard us plead our cause. My future 
happiness rests in great measure in your hands — think 
well, I ask you on my knees, before you decide that 
Charlie and I are past forgiveness. If you ever loved 
your god-daughter, don't abandon her now ; if you ever 
loved your son, let him tell you the story of his life. 
Believe me — and did you ever know me speak falsely ? — 
if you would but listen to Charlie, you would forgive 
him ; and if you pardon him, I know you will pardon 
me. Yonr affectionate god-daughter, 

"Grace Collingham. 

" P.S. — Please — please don't be cruel to me and unjust 
to Charlie ! " 

Out of that letter had fluttered an envelope directed, 
as the Baronet noticed, by his son. It contained two cer- 
tificates, one of death, the other of marriage — nothing 
else ; but those strips of paper made it manifest to Sir 
John that Charlie was justified in wooing again. 

The Baronet is much troubled in mind as to what he 
shall do. He cannot bear to think of ignoring Grace's 
appeal, and yet he can but admit that interference on his 
part will be in the highest degree inconsistent. He cast 
off his son for marrying contrary to his wishes ! He is 
asked to pardon him, because this time he has married 
in direct opposition to the wishes of the bride's father. 
And yet it seems to Sir John that reconciliation 



Charlie is easier now than he ever imagined it could be. 
That first marriage is an affair of the past, while his 
present choice meets with the Baronet's warm approval. 
Still Mr. Holbourne can be hardly expected to be other- 
wise than wrathful at his daughter's contumacious be- 
haviour, and Sir John feels that there Avill be a touch of 
absurdity in his becoming the advocate of a young lady 
who has shown such wilful disregard of the fifth com- 
mandment. But, despite all that, he finally makes up 
his mind to see the banker forthwith, and to plead 
Grade's cause, if possible. 



1*0 improvement takes place in Lettice ; she fails 
to gather strength, but lies dreamily on the 
couch in Sylla's boudoir, and pays but little ap- 
parent attention to what goes on around her. 
Ever and anon that scared, hunted look is visible in the 
dark eyes, and she trembles like an aspen at any unwonted 
noise. In vain Sylla tries to rouse her ; the girl answers 
in monosyllables or with a faint smile to all her blind 
nurse's untiring efforts to interest her. It seems as if the 
main-spring of her life had snapped. She lies there 
white as the snowy wrapper in which she is enveloped, 
and so still that, but for the somewhat restless eyes, she 
might have been deemed already numbered with the 

Sylla has received Reginald's anxious note, and taken 
it to her father to read. It shows the Baronet he has 
made no mistake in his surmise ; and Sylla scribbles off 
what comfort she may to the writer in reply. But the 
third day has arrived, and Doctor Meddlicott emphati- 
cally reminds Sir John of his promise. 

" I can see no other course," said the doctor; "but I 
think we may defer sending for Mr. Holbourne for a day 
or so, though we shall have to summon him in the end. 
I want Miss Sylla first to let Miss Melton know that he 
has written to inquire how she is." 

A New Prescription. 365 

Acting under these directions, Miss Collingham, in the 
course of her conversation, observes, 

" I have had a letter full of anxious inquiries about you 
this morning, Lettice. I have answered it to the best of 
my ability, and said you are getting better. You are, 
dear, you know, although slowly." 

The remark hardly attracts the sick girl's attention, 
and Sylla pauses in vain for a reply. 

" I thought," she continued, " you might like to send 
a message to one who, from the way he writes, should be 
very dear to you. Have you nothing to say to Reginald 
Holbourne ? " 

There is no want of interest in the hitherto listless 
face now. The pale cheeks are dyed crimson at the bare 
mention of his name. 

" Did he write about me ? " she gasped. " How did he 
know I was here ? I have tried — oh ! so hard — to for- 
get him as I promised, but I can't. No, I only promised 
not to see him again." 

" He writes in sore distress about you, Lettice and begs 
me to let him know daily how you go on." 

" Might I see the letter ? " asked the girl, shyly. 

" Of course you may ; here it is. In future, you sly 
little thing, I intend you not only to be eyes for me as 
regards his notes, but pen also, the moment you are 
strong enough. You must write and tell him how you 
are. He would rather have a staggery line or two from 
you than sheets from me. There," she continued, as 
she put Reginald's note into her patient's hands. " Are 
you glad to get it ? " 

Lettice said not a word, but her wan fingers twined 
round Sylla's in a manner quite conclusive on that point. 

" Hah ! hah ! sir," cried the doctor, in great excite- 
ment, when he heard the result of his experiment, "I 
knew it ! They are all alike ; that girl will come back 
from the jaws of the grave now her lover beckons her. 
If we had not hit off that spring to the mind, we should 
have had her either in a cemetery or an asylum before 
the month was over. Now, Sir John, I'm not going to 
press Reginald's presence on you fol a little, though I 
think it may still be necessary, but we can ' bide a wee,' 

366 False Cards. 

as the Scotch say. Tonics be hanged ! — there's nothing 
in the pharmacopoeia to compare with love's elixir, when 
the patient is under twenty." 

Left to herself, Lettice read Reginald's hasty scrawl 
over and over again. Although he had written, in con- 
sequence of Sylla's infirmity, more guardedly than he 
otherwise would have done, still the dullest reader could 
not be blind to the passionate anxiety betrayed by the 
writer. A smile played over the girl's face as she thrust 
the billet in her dress, and abandoned herself once more 
to reverie. " He does love me still," she murmured — 
" I knew he did ! It has seemed so hard never to hear of 
him ! Did that cruel woman speak truth ? It all seems 
like a frightful dream ! " 

But when the brain has been overtaxed, as in Lettice's 
case, it does not recover itself quite so quickly. For a 
few days Reginald's daily notes proved a veritable tonic — 
the patient gained ground rapidly, and Doctor Meddlicott, 
rubbing his hands, told the Baronet that he believed they 
should manage without young Holbourne after all. 

Coming gaily into Lettice's room one morning; Sylla 
threw a note from Reginald into her lap, and exclaimed, 

"There, it's directed to you, is it not? I wash my 
hands of your correspondence, /eft'/e from this moment — 
you must write your own love-letters in future. I'm sure 
you are strong enough now, and, if it is any consolation 
to you, I don't suppose, in your most robust days, they 
were ever considered quite so long as they should 

A troubled expression came into Lettice's face as she 
took the note, and the old scared look was once more 
visible in her eyes. 

" Don't say that, please," she said, hurriedly. " You 
must write — you will, won't you? Reginald will be so 
grieved not to hear." 

Sylla was somewhat startled by the tone, but, of course, 
the troubled face was lost to her. 

" And if he is," she replied, laughing, " whose fault 
will it be, I should like to know ? He has applied to 
you, not me, this time, to tell him how you are. If he is 

A New Prescription. 367 

grieved, my dear, it will be due to your own sweet indo- 
lence, and nothing else." 

" Hush ! Stop, Sylla, listen to me. I have promised 
never to write to him — never to see him, if I can avoid 
it ! " 

" What ! " exclaimed Miss Collingham, as she became 
keenly alive to the increasing agitation of her companion's 
voice. " Promised never to see nor write to your lover ! 
What do you mean ? " 

" What I have said," replied Lettice. " I have pro- 
mised, and I will keep my word. It might work him 
harm," she continued, growing more and more hysteri- 
cal — " that woman said it would. I would not — I — that 
is — " And here Lettice burst into tears, and Miss 
Collingham, jumping quickly to the bell, rang for further 

Of course the girl was soon soothed, and Sylla, think- 
ing it no more than a morbid fancy, the result of her 
severe illness, carefully abstained from alluding again to 
the subject. Still one thing did strike her as curious, 
and that was, that Lettice had no letter for the post. 
She would have been still more perplexed could she have 
seen how the girl's eyes watched all her movements 
throughout the day, and the weary, disappointed look 
that gathered in them when Lettice ascertained that no 
letter had been despatched to Reginald. 

Absurd you may think that this girl should adhere in 
such scrupulous fashion to a promise extorted under some- 
what questionable circumstances. But bear in mind that 
Lettice has been truthfully, though queerly, brought up ; 
that in her very limited number of acquaintances she 
has been accustomed to see people mean what they say ; 
that she looks upon her word once passed as by no means 
to be either violated or evaded ; that she is recovering from 
a severe illness, in which her brain has been seriously 
affected ; that her mind as yet still grasps ideas but 
feebly, and is utterly incapable of reasoning on any com- 
plicated point ; and finally, that since the fever, she is 
possessed of a lurking dread of Marion's power, and 
firmly believes that any infraction of her promise will 
recoil upon her lover's head. 

368 False Cards. 

In the first thrill of delight at again hearing of him, she 
had temporarily forgotten all this. In fact, so far, there 
was no breach of her plighted word. But no sooner did 
Reginald, in accordance with Sylla's instructions, write 
direct to Lettice herself, and plead for a bulletin from her 
own hand, than all the old terrors of her delirium were 

It would hurt him dreadfully, she thought, not to 
answer his letter, but she could not help that. Better 
his feelings should be wounded than that more serious 
harm should be wrought him through her not keeping 
her promise. Lettice, in her diseased imagination, has 
invested Marion (unknown to her by name, be it remem- 
bered) with extraordinary powers. The knowledge she 
displayed at their one interview concerning herself, filled 
poor Lettice's mind with awe, while the merciless use she 
made of that knowledge filled it at the same time with 
dread. She deemed that Marion's information was 
boundless, and that any infraction of their contract on 
her part would be speedily conveyed to Miss Langworthy's 

Doctor Meddlicott is not slow to recognise the change 
for the worse in his patient. There is a return of the old 
feverish symptoms next day, and it is manifest to his 
practised eyes that the nervous system is considerably 
unhinged again. A conversation with Sylla gives the 
doctor his clue, and he quickly seeks an interview with 
the Baronet. 

" Well, Sir John," he cried abruptly, " we must send 
for young Holbourne, after all. He was an effective tonic 
dealt out in homoeopathic doses to start with, but he is 
acting as an irritant now, which is the last thing to meet 
the case. We must exhibit him as a whole,and see how 
he agrees with her in that shape. Joking apart, that girl 
has drifted all to leeward the last twenty-four hours, 
and her state is still too precarious not to make that a 
subject of anxiety, at all events, to her doctor." 

Sir John has put off making his call upon the banker, 
not in the least from that besetting weakness which 
attaches to so many of us, to wit, the postponing anything 
unpleasant as long as possible, but simply that he judged 

A New Prescription. 369 

it best in Grace's interests to let her father's first indigna- 
tion burn itself out. " Let not the sun go down upon 
thy wrath," is a maxim, I fear, but slenderly attended 
to even by the best of us. Do you remember Frederick 
the Great's grim jest on these words? His army escaped 
annihilation at Prague, owing to the inertness of the 
Austrian generals, and he attributed his salvation entirely 
to their recognition of the divine precept. They ceased to 
press their advantage after sunset, and thus enabled him to 
extricate himself from the toils. But I fear we are more 
wont to cherish our anger than our good intentions, and 
a man is apt to be more energetic in his wrath than 
in his benevolence. 

Sir John had written very kindly to Gracie — had, more- 
over, even sent a message to his son, that held forth fair 
promise of forgiveness at no very distant period, and 
promised his god-daughter to intercede in her behalf with 
her father shortly. He now wished he had done so at 
once. As he had already said, he did not like welcoming 
his old friend's son, while he was not on terms with his 
father. If he had had that interview with Mr. Holbourne 
he could have at all events explained under what peculiar 
circumstances he had been induced to have it. But there 
was no time for that now. 

" It shall be as you wish, doctor," he replied at length, 
" but I think his visit had better he kept as quiet as 
possible. I will tell Sylla to write to him by to-day's 

" All right, Sir John. There's no necessity to advertise 
it in Aldringham. I understand your motives thoroughly 
and respect them, but I deem his presence here, for a day 
or so, a necessity, to disabuse my patient's mind on some 
point which he apparently alone can clear up. You 
may rely upon my discretion, of course. A doctor 
is always the confidant of his district — those who don't 
confide in him die." 

" And those who do also at times," retorted the Baronet, 

" True," replied the doctor with a twinkle of his eye, 
"but in orthodox fashion. It's most irregular leaving 
this world without medical advice." 

37° False Cards. 

Two days more, and the doctor has good grounds for 
feeling uneasy at Lettice's state, She has past a fevered 
night, and it is obvious that her mind is again filled with 
that undefined terror that before possessed her. The note 
that Sylla puts into her hands this morning does little to 
tranquilize her. It is directed to Miss Collingham, and 
full of dire forebodings at not having received a line from 
Lettice. Sylla, unluckily has given the girl this note 
without submitting it to anyone's perusal. When she 
enters the room and glides to the couch some half-hour 
afterwards, she is astonished to feel her wrist clutched 

" You must write, write at once ! " is hissed into her 
ear. " Tell him I am better — almost well ! How could 
you be so cruel as not to write yesterday, or the day 
before ? You know I can't. You know what it might 
cost him if I did. Hear what he says ! — how dare you 
torture him thus ! How am I to get well if you treat 
him so ? When he suffers I suffer. I must get well, 
because he would grieve so if I did not. 1 can never see 
him more, but he wills that I should live. It is enough, 
f shall live for his sake. Write and tell him I am well, 
and pray for him ever." 

Sylla had no need to see the wild, fever-lit eye to know 
that delirium had once more seized her patient. She 
bitterly repented that she had given her that note. 
Regret, however, was useless ; it was done, and there was 
nothing left now but to make the best of it. She soothed 
the troubled brain as best she might, sat down and wrote 
a most mendacious account of the girl's health which she 
submitted to Lettice's perusal ; and, finally directing it to 
Reginald Holbourne, promised it should go by that night's 
post. She also penned a billet to Dr. Meddlicott, acquaint- 
ing him with the unfavourable change in Miss Melton, and 
requesting him to come to dinner. For Reginald Holbourne 
would be at Churton by that time, and whether he should 
be allowed to see Lettice or not was a point that Sylla 
felt only the doctor could determine. 

Reginald arrived in due course, and both Sir John 
and the doctor were struck by the change in him. It 
was not that he looked ill — a little worn, perhaps, nothing 

A New Prescription. 371 

more ; but the light-hearted boy they had known a few 
months back was transformed into an earnest, serious 
man. He was very quiet, thanked Sir John for his kind- 
ness, touched lightly but gracefully on the awkward 
position it was for the Baronet, as an old friend of his 
father's to have to receive a son whom that father dis- 
avowed. But, he continued, circumstances at times 
absolved etiquette, and this to him was a genuine matter 
of life or death. 

" I almost tremble, doctor, to ask you for news. You 
have both known me from boyhood, and I tell you 
soberly and earnestly my life is bound up in that nicker 
ing life you have struggled so hard to preserve. I mean 
no nonsense, of course — simply if I lose Lettice I lose all. 
Men get over such blows, I know. I may, like others, in 
time ; but it will be many years before I have heart to 
work for more than mere bread and cheese if she is taken 
from me. May I see her ? " 

" My dear Reginald," replied the doctor, into whose 
eyes the young man's earnest speech had introduced a 
most unprofessional moisture, "I think not just yet. I 
want you to see her, and still I am afraid of the result. 
You see, she has manifestly gone wrong for the last two 
or three days. Now, speaking practically, you are my 
trump card, and I am loth to use you except to the 
greatest advantage. If you don't succeed in combating 
an idea that haunts the poor child's brain, I own I shall 
be terribly disappointed." 

" I understand," replied Reginald, with a weary smile. 
" I fancy I know, from Grace, and all I have heard of her 
illness besides, the whole story. Still it is better you 
should tell me your impressions." 

The doctor then entered into the whole history of 
Lettice's sick bed, dwelling upon the predominant points 
of her delirium, &c. 

" I presume," he observed in conclusion, " that I can 
depend upon you to keep calm when you see her. Mind, 
coolness on your part is essential." 

" Never fear, doctor ; if I'm under the knife I'll not 
wince. This story is all plain enough to me. That 
unknown woman is not in the least anonymous, as far as 

372 False Cards. 

I am concerned. If you can only bring Lettice romnd 
far enough to listen to an explanation, I will guarantee 
that explanation shall do her more good than all your 

" My medicines ! " exclaimed the doctor. " By Jingo ! 
it had need. It's mighty little I can do for her, poor girl, 
after I have administered you. Now off to bed with you ! 
I mean to stay here to-night, but don't intend to try you 
till to-morrow, at all events." 

" Thanks ten thousand for all you have done ! " And 
with a warm shake of the hand the pair separated. 

I don't think there was much sleep accomplished by 
either of them. Reginald Holbourne, it may be easily 
supposed, was little likely to pass a tranquil night under 
the circumstances. Dr. Meddlicott also felt so much 
interest and anxiety about the result of the meeting of 
the lovers that he, too, failed to consummate the sleep of 
the just. 

The doctor was painfully aware that Lettice's mind 
was in a most critical state. He spoke in all seriousness 
when he designated Reginald his trump card. He was 
very sanguine that Holbourne would be able to dissipate 
that terror the removal of which so completely baffled his 
science. But the doctor was equally aware that the girl 
had some monomaniacal idea that her writing to or seeing 
Reginald would act to his prejudice. It was difficult to 
foresee how an interview would influence her mind. " If," 
argued the doctor, "we can get her through the first 
flurry of that meeting, we shall do ; but then, unfortu- 
nately, there must be a shock — -a thing of all others in 
her state I should like to avoid. Yet what can we do ? 
It's quite clear, after the failure of our attempt to induce 
her to answer his letters, that she will strenuously decline 
to see him, if we break it to her that he is coming. 
Reginald evidently can solve the whole problem success- 
fully that racks her distraught mind, if we can only 
persuade her to listen to him for ten minutes ; but there 
is no denying that the sight of him may utterly unhinge 
her ; and if it does— well, it will be a bad business, I fear," 
mused the doctor. " Still something must be tried ; she 
can't go on in this state. If she is no worse, I'll risk it 

A New Jr^fescription. 373 

to-morrow, in some shape. Pity that note fell into her 
hands to-day — sad mistake, though Sylla worked hard to 
retrieve her error. Past twelve — this won't do — an old 
practitioner worrying his own nerves by thinking about 
his patients ! No, no, I must go to sleep, if only in the 
interest of other people." 

Much puzzled was the doctor next morning how best 
to play his trump card. Lettice's feverish anxiety was 
once more painful to witness. The old nervous terror 
was as apparent as in the very first days of her conval- 
escence. The dark eyes wandered restlessly round the 
room, and that scared look the doctor had always so much 
dreaded was as manifest as ever. It was evident that the 
patient had retrograded — was 1 .. trograding fast. He 
feared the result of introducing Reginald suddenly into 
her presence. 

It was reserved for a woman's quick wit to solve the 

" Make Reginald write her a note as if from London, 
to say that he is coming down to see how she is for 
himself. Tell him to say that he can show that she has 
been deceived, imposed upon in every way, and let him 
speedily follow his letter — that's my advice, doctor," said 
Sylla Collingham, at the expiration of an earnest conver- 
sation with the perturbed medico. 

" You are right, Miss Sylla — that's it ! I will bring 
you the note in ten minutes, and the writer had better 
follow it in about an hour or two." 

But the result of that note filled the conspirators with 
dismay. Lettice got more excited and nighty in her talk 
after receiving it than ever. She declared she was quite 
well, and must go away. Reginald little knew what 
would be the consequences of his rashness — she did, and 
it was her duty to save him at all hazards. In short, it 
was found necessary to humour her whim. To soothe 
her, the carriage was ostentatiously ordered to meet 
the evening train. Sylla's maid went through con- 
siderable demonstration of packing, on Miss Melton's 

Doctor Meddlicott was dreadfully put out at the state 
of affairs. He told Reginald honestly that he did not 

374 False Cards. 

like to undertake the responsibility of introducing him 
to the sick girl's presence as things stood. 

_ " And yet," he said, " delay seems only to increase the 
difficulty. A week ago it had been easy. At the same 
time I am convinced that we shall do no permanent good 
with her till you have dispelled the hallucination that 
possesses her." 

" Doctor, she is my affianced bride, and therefore I 
claim some voice in this matter. Let me see her," ex- 
claimed Holbourne, eagerly. 

Doctor Meddlicott mused for some moments, and at 
last said, 

"You shall. I'll risk it. Now listen attentively to 
what I am going to say to you. It is impossible to say 
how the sight of you may affect her. She may faint, be 
hysterical, delirous, anything. But whatever it may be, 
I want her, if possible, to come round again without 
other aid than yours. You will find all necessary remedies 
at hand. A touch of the bell, or even a call, will, I need 
scarcely say, bring me to your assistance; but don't 
summon me if you can help it. Don't lose your nerve 
if she swoons. Recollect her physical health is by no 
means bad, it is her mental state that is so ticklish. 
Remember, if you can pull through without me I shall 
deem the victory won, and feel no fears about the future. 
Now, come." 

Reginald's heart beat thick and fast as he followed the 
doctor upstairs. At the threshold of Lettice's door his 
conductor paused, and eyed him narrowly. 

"No hurry," he said. "She is by herself. Now, if 
you are ready. Remember, be cool." And with this 
parting injunction the doctor softly turned the handle of 
the door, and having admitted his companion, instantly 
closed it again behind him. 

Lettice is lying on a couch near the window, so 
absorbed in her occupation as to be quite unconscious that 
she is no longer alone. Most prosaic of occupations is 
hers. She is studying Bradshaw, and wondering where 
she should next hide herself. That she must put herself 
once more out of her lover's reach is a fixed idea in 
Lettice's mind. Her face is turned from him, and for a 

A New Prescription. 375 

second Reginald pauses doubtfully — in the next his 
resolution is taken. He crosses swiftly, though quietly, 
to her side, She turns her head at the sound of his foot- 
steps, but before she can rise his arms have encircled her, 
and he whispers passionately in her ear, 

" At last, my darling, I have found you ! " 

For a few moments she yields to his embrace, then 
the dark eyes dilate with terror, and she struggles to 
extricate herself. 

" Go, Reginald, go ! " she cries. '' What madness 
brought you here ? It is ruin to you to see me again ! 
You know it. She said so. She vowed it should be, and 
I promised to save you, my own — never to see you 
more ! Quick ! away, and she may not discover we have 

Her last words rose almost to a shriek, and she fought 
angrily to free herself from his arms. But Reginald held 
her close. 

" Lettice," he said, gently, " that woman lied to you. 
She imposed upon you ! She has treated you cruelly ! 
She can do me no harm ! She can do you no harm ! On 
the contrary, it is / who intend to exact a heavy reckon- 
ing from her, for all the pain and anxiety she has cost us 
both. Be still, child ! " 

Exhausted by her struggles, Lettice now lies tranquil 
in her lover's embrace, her head pillowed on his breast. 
There is assurance of safety in those strong arms that are 
wound about her. The quiet, resolute tones soothe her 
excited nerves. Moreover, that cool threat of vengeance 
on her dreaded enemy gives a confidence to the terror- 
stricken girl that is of incalculable value in dissipating 
her hallucination. Far from fearing that bugbear of her 
imagination, to Lettice's surprise, her lover threatens 
severe reprisals. Still it is not to be supposed that the 
clouds that hang over her mind can be dispelled all at 
once. She raises her head timidly. 

" Take me away, Regi. Let's go far away," she 
whispers, " where she cannot find us. I thought I could 
give you up, but I can't now. Hush ! " she said, lifting 
her hand with a warning gesture — " speak low — she finds 
out everything. Let's go away to-night. I know lots of 

37^ alse Cards. 

places. I was going to hide from you, dear ; now we will go 
together, and hide from her. Come," and but for the strong 
encircling arms, Lettice would have sprung to her feet. 

Holbourne's mouth twitched, and his features worked 
strangely. Fell was the curse he gulped down concern- 
ing Marion Langworthy, and stern was the vow he made 
at that moment to show her but scant mercy when the 
tide turned against her, as he felt it assuredly would. But 
he remembered the doctor's last words, and though he shook 
from head to foot, it was in tranquil tones that he replied. 

"You are not strong enough to travel yet, Lettice — I 
am going to stay with you here till you are ; and then I 
shall marry you, and take you away. You must be quick 
and grow strong, little woman, for you are a very white, 
woe-begone-looking Lettice just now. There, keep quiet 
— I have come down expressly to nurse you, and expect 
you to be very obedient to my directions." 

She smiled up at him, the old trusting, loving smile. 

"Listen Regi," she said ; "I shall get well if you never 
leave me ; but that woman will separate us if you do. 
Promise not to go away from me again. I am so afraid 
of her. Are you sure she can't hurt you ?" 

"Quite; nor you either, darling," said Holbourne, as 
he stroked the short, soft rings of hair that now repre- 
sented Lettice's once luxuriant tresses. 

But the door opens, and in bounces Dr. Meddlicott. 
The doctor's curiosity was no longer to be restrained. 
Lettice made a faint effort to assume a more decorous 
position, but her lover held her fast. " Keep still, child," 
he whispered, " they all know you belong to me." 

"I thought I heard you ring," said the doctor, with a 
twinkle of his eye. 

" Thanks, no — I require no assistance." 

The doctor looked keenly at his patient for a few 
seconds — the scrutiny seemed to satisfy him. 

"Assistance!" he exclaimed, turning to Reginald — 
"no, you young jackanapes, I should think not. I think 
I could have done such nursing single-handed at your 
age. Even now I shouldn't mind taking a turn at it." 
And, with a pleasant laugh, the doctor left the lovers 
once more to themselves. 




j]R. HOLBOURNE, however he may attempt to 
disguise matters to the world, feels Grace's 
elopement deeply. Although he cannot lay 
blame to himself concerning it, still, he has an 
uneasy suspicion that he did not see dessous les cartes — 
that there were facts he was blind to connected with it. 
The banker is a good deal altered by his domestic troubles. 
It is true he still retains his old pompous manner, but his 
self-complacency is perceptibly reduced. He flourishes 
the eye-glass yet, but it is with a mere ghastly shadow of 
the oracular manner in which he formerly twirled that 

Miss Langworthy, meanwhile, strives, and with 

tolerable success, to be all in all to her uncle. She exerts 

herself in every way. Never was the menage more 

sharply looked after than it is at the present ; never were 

the banker's comforts more carefully attended to ; never 

were his little foibles more humoured and remembered. 

Those little dinners he so delights in are constantly urged 

upon him, and, upon those occasions, Marion employs all 

her energies to make them go off well. Gifted with rare 

tact and much fascination of manner, it is not much to 

be wondered at that she succeeds. When she threw her 

powers into the contrary direction a while back, it may 

be remembered she proved quite capable of putting these 

little reunions out of joint. 

37 8 False Cards, 

It is difficult to describe such an incongruous charactei 
as Marion's. She has schemed, and is yet scheming, 
with apparent success, but she is not mercenary in her 
designs. She troubles her head nothing about how her 
uncle may intend to dispose of his property. If the 
banker showed signs of infirmity, she would make no 
attempt to benefit herself at the expense of her cousins in 
his will. She would like to feel that she had influence 
enough over him to ask for a considerable sum of money 
without giving any explanation as to why she required 
it, simply because that would enable her to get quit of 
Lightfoot, the shaking off of whom she made no disguise 
to herself was liable to be attended with considerable 

But her main object was attained. She was absolute 
mistress of her uncle's house. Now her cousin was 
married, Miss Langworthy was perfectly willing that she 
should be reconciled to her father, and had made up her 
mind to forward such reconciliation if it lay in her power. 
She had forgiven Grace her involuntary share in Robert 
Collingham's offence — but with Reginald it was different. 
She still felt very bitter about his defalcation, and had 
no intention that the grass should grow over his quarrel 
with his father if she could help it. It was a very 
singular feeling on Marion's part. She had placed no 
kind of value on this love when it was hers — had taken 
but little pains to keep it — had always contemplated 
throwing it on one side, as soon as a more eligible parti 
should offer. Yet when she found he had dared to 
emancipate himself from her thrall, Miss Langworthy 
felt as vindictively towards him as her disposition was 
capable of — and its capabilities in that direction were by 
no means small. 

Her wrath, perhaps, on being analysed, might be found 
to spring principally from two motives — she was very 
indignant at finding her hold over him so utterly gone. 
That he had vouchsafed no reply to her letter, but had 
written straight to his father on receipt of it, had made 
Marion supremely angry. Then, again, she was bitterly 
enraged at her rival not being of her own class ; for Miss 
Langworthy held very high and mighty notions as to 

For the Defence. 379 

what constituted a lady, and, utterly ignoring the fact 
that her own blood was of very ordinary vintage, looked 
down disdainfully upon those whose position was some- 
what inferior to her own. She hated Lettice, too, from 
the moment she set eyes on her. The girl's honest, 
truthful nature was a satire upon her own scheming 
disposition ; she hated her still more because Reginald 
so loved her ; and finally she hated her because she felt 
that Lettice was likely to bear testimony against her at 
some future time. The girl could expose a very pretty 
tissue of false speaking on Miss Langworthy's part, should 
she ever meet Reginald again face to face. And here she 
was, according to Lightfoot's information, established at 
Churton ! This, in Marion's eyes, was another urgent 
reason why Reginald should not come to Aldringham — 
and though, considering his peculiar relations with her- 
self, it was scarce likely that he would do so at present, 
there was much safety in that breach between him and 
his father. That Reginald and Lettice had already met 
was quite unknown to Miss Langworthy. 

The banker is sitting in somewhat melancholy mood 
in his own peculiar den. True, his niece is unremitting 
in her attentions, most devoted to the study of his com- 
forts ; but a man cannot help feeling estrangement from 
his own children, when his disposition is cast in so genial 
a mould as Mr. Holbourne's. His quarrel with each of 
them, moreover, as he is well aware, is based upon most 
sandy foundation. He has forbid Reginald to marry a 
certain young lady. Reginald, on his part, has declared 
he will ; but still he has not as yet done so. As for 
Grace she has thought fit to run away with the discarded 
son of his old friend Collingham. It was against his 
wish. He, in fact, had expressed himself strongly on the 
point ; but still beyond that he was unrecognised by Sir 
John, Mr. Holbourne had nothing tangible to allege 
against Charles Collingham. 

He is still musing over these things, when a servant 
announces that the Baronet wishes to see him, and the 
announcement barely precedes the visitor himself. 

"Holbourne," remarked Sir John, their first greetings 
passed, "I have come down to have a little serious talk 

380 False Cards. 

with you about this marriage of our children. What 
are we to do about it ?" . 

" Do about it ! " exclaimed the banker in astonish- 
ment. " Why, you have repudiated Charlie for the last 
five years. You don't consider his carrying off Grace a 
plea for forgiveness, do you ?" 

" Yes, I do," retorted Sir John. " It is the most 
sensible thing he ever did. The man who could carry 
off my god-daughter and didn't, would have been such a 
fool, that it's a mercy to think my offspring was not so 

"I don't understand you," stammered the banker. 
"You have refused to forgive your son for running 
counter to your wishes for years. You seem to expect 
me to pardon my daughter out of hand." 

" My dear old friend," said Sir John. " It comes ill from 
me, I grant you, but I am here pledged to plead Grace's 
cause. Whatever the reason of my quarrel with Charlie, 
suffice it to say it is now removed ; and if his marriage 
had but your sanction, it would please me more than any 
alliance he could have made. 

This was flattering, very. Mr. Holbourne tingled 
down to his very finger-tips with gratification. Recognised 
by Sir John, he felt that Grade's marriage would be 
perfectly satisfactory. Still had he not been steeling 
himself these last few weeks to emulate his pet model, 
hardening his heart, stifling his affections, and when at 
length fondly hoping he had attained to the stern un- 
relenting frame of mind which he so revered in the 
Baronet, lo and behold that gentleman abdicates the 
position which he has held for years, and comes talking 
to him about the advisability of forgiving these wayward 
children of theirs ! It had been a severe struggle ere 
the good-natured banker could quite make up his mind 
that his dignity required him to discard his children. 
But he would not be behind his neighbour, and he also 
would preach a lesson to the irreverent youth of this 
generation, that parents were not to be lightly dealt 
with. He has arrived at this stage, recollect, only after 
much petrifaction of his natural feelings, a process 
which has been accomplished with more sighs and 

For the Dejence. 38 1 

regrets than the banker would care to look back 

Like that ancient gentleman of monkish legend, he 
has attained the top of his pillar, and is prepared to 
look down upon human joys and affections with disdain- 
ful melancholy for the future. It accords ill with his 
genial character. What matter ? Have we never seen 
men make themselves miserable in the gratification of 
their pride before now ? What tortures will our sisters 
not undergo in indulgence of their vanity ! If you 
wish really to preach a homily on that subject, I com- 
mend you to a fine Ascot Cup day, which bursts into 
stormy tears about lunch time. A sad sight is woman 
in draggled drapery — sadder reflection still, she is pain- 
fully aware of it, and the honeyed contralto of the 
morning turns to the ascidulated treble in the afternoon. 
Though you have abandoned your umbrella to her, 
speculate not on her gratitude. A week hence she may 
thank you. At present all she knows is that her petticoats 
are bemired, her hair out of curl, that she is looking her 
worst, and that you are looking at her. 

The banker hesitated some time before he replied ; 
when his answer came, it was in a constrained voice, 
very different from his usual jubilant, self-satisfied tones. 
The gold eye-glass with which he used to point his 
speeches, dangled neglected on his waistcoat. 

" Grace, like Reginald," he said, harshly, " has made 
her own election. When children choose to set their 
fathers at defiance, to treat their express commands as 
subject of ridicule, they can hardly be surprised should 
the father on his side forget that they are his offspring. 
Sir John, you moot this request to an old man, sore- 
stricken by the conduct of those to whom he has given 
life. I loved my children dearly ; they have laughed at 
me. You ! you ! " he said, " have taught us the way to 
deal with such untoward stock. I take my lesson from 
yourself, and say that Grace and Reginald are no longer 
children of mine." 

" My dear old friend," replied the Baronet sadly, " J 
also said that in my wrath, and with far better grounds 
for doing so than vou have. If I tell you that I have 

382 False Cards. 

lived to think myself wrong, won't that induce you to 
reconsider your sentence ? " 

The banker only wanted in reality a decent pretext to 
retire from the unnatural (to him) position he had assumed. 

" Of course," he said slowly, " it does make a differ- 
ence, if you choose to make it up with Charlie." 

" My dear Holbourne ! " exclaimed the Baronet, " I am 
not yet reconciled with Charlie, but I have fair grounds 
for supposing that our original quarrel was due in some 
measure to a misconception on my part. Will you pardon 
your daughter if I make peace with my son ? " 

The banker paused, and played after his manner with 
his eye-glass. 

" You must admit, Sir John," he said at length, " that 
you are departing rather from the example you have held 
up to us ; " and as he spoke he eyed his companion 
anxiously, as if fearful he would take him at his word. 

" Have I not told you," replied the Baronet, earnestly, 
" that, stern and unforgiving as I am by nature, I have 
come at last to think that I have meted out hard judg- 
ment to that son of mine ? When you see me, after all 
these years, telling you that I wish I had dealt otherwise 
with him — when I consent to swallow my pride, and own 
confidentially to you that I fear I have been but an 
obstinate, uncharitable old fool after all, will you, then, 
say no to my request ? You can't, you won't, I know 
you too well, Holbourne. Gracie appeals to me as her 
godfather and father-in-law. I have promised to stand 
by her and make peace between you. Promise me be- 
fore I go that you will write and say you forgive her." 

"If you can forgive Charlie, Sir John, I cannot refuse 
to pardon Grace. Is it a bargain ? " And the banker's 
face lit up the idea of once more seeing his bonnie 
Grace again. 

" Clinched, signed, and sealed ! " cried the Baronet, in 
jubilant tones, as he clasped his friend's hand. "My 
pardon, unconditional, except that they come here 
shortly, goes by to-day's post. Let yours also." 

" It shall," replied Mr. Hoxbourne blithely ; and with 
another warm shake of the hands the queerly-matched 
friends parted. 



ARION LANGWORTHY was speedily made 
aware of her uncle's decision regarding Grace. 
She had been, of course, cognizant of the con- 
ference between him and Sir John, and led up 
to the subject thereof in her usual subtle manner after 
dinner. The banker would have been sore put to it had 
he wished to evade his niece's insidious cross-examina- 
tion ; but he had no such intention, and at once ex- 
plained to her the object of Sir John's visit, and the 
resolution he had come to. Marion, as we know, had 
decided to throw no obstacles in the way of his re- 
conciliation with his daughter, and Mr. Holbourne was, 
to say the truth, somewhat relieved to find it met with 
her entire approval. Though he would have scorned to 
own such a thing, yet the banker stood in unmistakeable 
awe of his niece's opinion, and feared it not a whit the 
less because, as a rule, it was somewhat difficult to arrive 
at in the first instance. But Miss Langworthy, if some- 
what chary of expressing her views to start with, 
always took care they should be clearly comprehended 
in the sequel, and in her own way was at considerable 
pains to prove the correctness of her apprehension. Her 
uncle had arrived at a dim understanding of this fact, and 
was therefore pleased to find that his intentions with 
regard to Grace found favour in her sight. 

384 False Cards. 

" I don't see how you could hold out uncle. It was 
very foolish, and I suppose I should say wrong, of 
Gracie to run away. It was, at all events, behaving 
very badly to you ; but it is done now, and you know 
yov love her dearly, so there is nothing left but to 
make the best of it. Besides, if Sir John acknowledges 
Charlie again he must do something to help them ; it's 
a connection you like, and I don't see why it should not 
all do very well. Charlie's being so completely dis- 
carded by his father was the great objection to it — and 
that removed, I don't think there's much to find fault 
with when you have once forgiven Gracie for her 

" Just what I felt, Marion. I can't quarrel with my 
daughter all my life. If Sir John can forgive I can," 
continued the banker, eagerly. "The minx had no 
business to run away and set me at defiance, but if he had 
but been on terms with his father I should never have 
opposed her marriage with Charlie Collingham. Now 
that's all settled, and I have written to tell them to come 

But Miss Langworthy had several causes of mental 
disquietude, and it was one of these that had made her 
so inquisitive about the object of Sir John's visit. She 
knew that Lettice was at Churton, and though not 
exactly seeing how, felt that there was considerable 
danger of a meeting between her and Reginald. If they 
once exchanged explanations, Marion knew that she must 
stand convicted of most unblushing falsehood at the least 
— how much further she might be compromised she 
could hardly say. It was consequently a relief to her 
mind to find out that Sir John's visit bore no reference 
to Miss Cheslett (such she still was to Marion) and her 
affairs. She was in happy ignorance that Reginald was 
at that moment at Churton, that all had been cleared 
up between him and his betrothed, and that her own 
conduct was laid bare in all its mendacity and vindic- 

Miss Langworthy, too, had received an intimation of 
danger from another quarter. Sixty days soon glide 
away, and since Marion had so rashly affixed her sig- 

Marion m Trouble. 385 

nature at Mr. Lightfoot's suggestion, that mystic period 
has elapsed. She has received an official intimation from 
Messrs. Hartz and Smelter, that two of her notes of hand 
will fall due at the end of the week, requesting her to 
provide for the taking up of the same. She wrote by 
return of post to Mr. Lightfoot, but that gentleman 
curtly recommended her to meet her liabilities promptly, 
as the Israelite who was in possession of the documents 
alluded to was a veritable descendant of Shylock, no- 
torious for his rapacity, and capable even of attaching 
her person if his lust for gold was not satiated. Marion, 
though somewhat uneasy in her mind, was by no means 
so impressed with this intelligence as her correspondent 
anticipated. She had a hazy idea that a woman was not 
liable to arrest for debt, and looked upon Lightfoot's 
letter as intended to frighten her only. She thought she 
would have to pay " these things," so she termed them, 
some day ; but had no conception that any arbitrary 
steps could be taken against her in reference to them. 
Had Marion more thoroughly comprehended her lia- 
bilities, she would probably have at once made a clean 
breast of it to her uncle, but she did not. There would 
be much awkwardness in explaining how it was that she 
had got into the hands of these bill-discounters— for 
what she had wanted all this money ; and though Miss 
Langworthy's fertile imagination would doubtless have 
proved equal to the occasion, and devised some plausible 
story to satisfactorily account for such transactions, yet 
she quite failed to recognise the imminent danger she 
stood in. Of course if these people did proceed to ex- 
tremities, exposure was certain, and explanation would 
be difficult in the extreme ; but Marion looked upon her 
quondam adviser's letter as simply an attempt at further 
extortion, and resolved to disregard it. 

Miss Langworthy, in neat hat and comfortable seal- 
skin jacket, issues from her uncle's door this crisp 
November morning, with no immediate misgivings con- 
cerning her liabilities, intending to make a few visits in 
Aldringham. She takes little heed of a flashily-dressed 
man, with bright scarlet necktie, who is idly sucking 
his stick on the opposite side of the way. But that ill- 

3 86 False Cards. 

attired individual regards her with considerable atten- 
tion, and lounges in her footsteps with an indolent, 
slouching gait, as one accustomed to dog the perambula- 
tions of his fellows. This man, unfortunately for Marion, 
is a very epicure in his profession. Cynical and discon- 
tented with the calling to which the fates have doomed 
him, he solaces himself by conducting it in the most 
sensational manner possible. His vocation is to serve 
writs, but, unless tied tightly down by the instructions 
of his employers, Mr. Trapster can never resist waiting 
for the opportunity of a great scenic effect. He has no 
idea of a quiet arrest ; his monomania is to explode his 
torpedo when it will create the greatest sensation. 

This singular fancy has cost him several sad mishaps. 
He has been hurled from the top of a drag at Goodwood 
— precipitated from a window at Long's — kicked down 
innumerable stairs — stricken to the ground at the steps 
of St. George's, Hanover Square, for exercising his func- 
tions at the conclusion of the marriage ceremony. But 
nothing can wean him from his hobby. 

"A writ served at the right moment is better than any 
play," he was wont to observe to his intimates. " It's a 
leetle dangerous, I grant you, but so's practical joking. 
In my case, I always get paid if I am damaged — practical 
jokers don't. I makes the most fun I can out of the 
business, and takes the chances." 

Mr. Trapster knew very well that the most business- 
like course to have taken would have been to call upon 
Mr. Holbourne and show him the writ issued against his 
niece. He was quite aware that the probabilities would 
be in favour of its being settled then out of hand, but, 
Mr. Trapster argued, there would be no fun attached to 
that form of proceedure. To Mr. Trapster's eccentric 
conception of humour, a far more public mode of action 
was preferable, and it was with a silent chuckle that he 
now followed in the steps of his unconscious victim. 

If ever there was a woman to whom a public exposure 
was likely to prove unbearable, it was Marion. Her 
wrath had been very great, as we know, on the discovery 
that she had been made a fool of in Robert Collingham's 
case — although not intentionally on his part. Yet it had 

Marion in Trouble. 387 

taken her some time to forgive Grace for her innocent 
share in that disappointment. As for the male delin- 
quent, it was well for him that he had never required 
mercy at Marion's hands — that he was placed out of 
reach of her vengeance. No woman would have been 
more relentless in reprisal than Miss Langworthy, had 
opportunity been vouchsafed her. The sorest trial to 
her in that affair had been the condolence of some of her 
Aldringham friends, who vowed they had been looking 
forward to congratulate her on the engagement. 

Marion, quite unconscious of her eccentric follower, 
threads her way through the town towards Mrs. 
Methringham's house. That lady, it may be remem- 
bered, is one of Miss Langworthy's most intimate friends. 
But ere she reaches it, she finds herself in the midst of a 
bevy of acquaintances, of whom Mrs. Kennedy forms one, 
and is immediately involved in hand-shaking, and con- 

To Mr. Trapster, with his peculiar ideas of humour, 
this seems a most suitable occasion on which to present 
that ominous strip of paper which he bears with him. 
Leisurely selecting it from a capacious pocket-book, 
while his eyes twinkle with glee, he suddenly thrusts 
himself into the group of ladies, and doffing the white 
hat to Marion, observes, 

" Miss Langworthy, I believe." 

" Well ! " exclaims Marion, drawing herself up to her 
full height, and confronting the intruder with extreme 
disdain, " what do you want ? " 

" Nothing much, Miss," replied the bailiff, with a grin, 
" but I've a little bit of paper here for you. Suit of 
Hartz and Smelter, £26'] 10s., with costs. What shall 
we do about it ? " 

" What do you mean, man ? " gasped Mrs. Kennedy, 
breathlessly, as the group scattered like pigeons before 
the hawk ; while Marion, with colourless cheek and 
clasped hands, gazed vacantly at her persecutor. 

" Simply I arrest this young lady for debt, and if she 
or her friends can't settle it, I shall have to do my dooty, 
and convey her to Drollington gaol, that's all. But 
what's two hundred and sixty-seven odd to the likes of 

388 False Cards. 

her ? Don't you be frightened, miss. It's only walking 
home to your friends for the money. You'll have to 
excuse my accompanying you, but business is business, 
and I'm bound not to lose sight of a prisoner." 

" You are talking nonsense, fellow," retorts Mrs. 
Kennedy. "If you annoy us further we shall have to 
give you over to the police." But as she glances at 
Marion's colourless cheeks, she feels there is very little non- 
sense about the transaction. 

This last idea tickles Mr. Trapster amazingly; he bursts 
into an unseemly guffaw, through the lulls of which 
come half stifled ejaculations of " Give me over to the 
police ! Lor, here's a start ! Give me over to the police ! 
Well, I'm blessed if this ain't ago!" 

By this time Marion has recovered her presence of 

" An unpleasant mistake, Mrs. Kennedy, she exclaims, 
with a somewhat forced smile. " I never did profess to 
understand how I was left with regard to my poor father's 
liabilities, or how I am situated with regard to my own 
little property. I think I had best go home and see my 
uncle at once." 

This again seemed to amuse the cynical Trapster. 

" There ain't nothing else to be done, miss. We never 
takes ladies like you to Drollington, though, of course, 
that's what it comes to in extremities. But we'd best 
jog home and see about it. My time, begging your pardon, 
is valooable." 

Marion wished her friends good-bye — such, indeed, as 
had courage to see the denouement — and then, with down- 
cast eyes and cheeks aflame, hurried home with her 
equivocal follower at her heels. 

On her arrival at her own door, Marion was doomed to 
still further torture. Mr. Trapster, to her dismay, 
utterly declined to wait outside, but persisted in accom- 
panying her into the house, to the complete confusion of 
the butler, who could scarcely credit his ears when told 
by his mistress to let " that man " follow her into the 
drawing-room. There Mr. Trapster proved equally 
impracticable. When Miss Langworthy requested him 
to take a seat while she went to find her uncle, that 

Marion in Trouble. 389 

imperturbable personage said he would accompany her 
on her mission. It was in vain Marion urged she would 
be back directly. " Can't let you out of my sight, Miss, 
I'm sorry to say till the thing's settled. It's against all 
rules. I'd do anything to oblige a lady, but I'm respon- 
sible for your safe keeping now. Of course I know you 
wouldn't, but then it is possible you might look for your 
uncle at the railway station, and take a train somewhere 
if you were disappointed about finding him. It's the 
worst of our profession, miss — it makes, us distrust our 

There was nothing to be done but to send for Mr. 
Holbourne, and this Miss Langworthy accordingly did. 
By this the household were all agog, and no one more 
conscious of that fact than Marion, as she sat quivering 
with shame and impotent wrath in the drawing-room ; 
while opposite her, on the extreme edge of his chair, was 
perched the monster of the flame-coloured neckerchief, 
his white hat deposited carefully at his feet, beguiling the 
time by sucking the top of his stick, and glancing 
admiringly at his victim. 

Bitter were Marion's reflections at this time. No one 
could guess more accurately than she how far the news 
of her misadventure had spread in Aldringham. The 
thing had been so public that, as Miss Langworthy well 
knew, the story of her being arrested for debt would be 
fully discussed at every tea-table in the town that night. 
She had guided the scandal of the place for some time 
past, now she was called upon to breast it ; and Marion 
felt that was beyond her. She pictured to herself the 
different versions that would be given of her contretemps 
She saw her dear friends each publishing her own par- 
ticular edition of the follies and vanities that had led to 
such a disgraceful catastrophe. Her ears tingled as she 
thought how unanimous they would be upon the one 
point, to wit, " that they always had suspected there was 
something not quite right about Miss Langworthy." 
And then Marion thought what scope there was for their 
lively tongues when they came to consider how it was 
that she had incurred her liabilities. " Opium-eating," 
" drawing-room alcoholism," " gambling " on the turf, 

396 False Cards. 

on the stock-exchange, would be the least of the charges 
brought against her. 

One thing alone seemed clear to Marion — that she 
must leave Aldringham at once. She had queened it 
there too long not to have made enemies, and she scorned 
to become a cipher in the little world she had so long 
ruled. She must go away she hardly knew where, but 
she could face Aldringham society no more, for some 
time at all events. 

It was curious and typical of the girl's character that 
what would have weighed upon most people's minds in 
her situation scarcely cost her a thought. To the 
generality of nephews or nieces so placed, the serious part 
of the affair would have been the having to appeal to an 
uncle for a considerable sum of money without being able 
to give any explanation of how such a debt had been 
incurred. Marion troubled herself not an iota upon this 
point. She felt quite certain her uncle would pay it for 
her. She had equally made up her mind to decline any 
explanation concerning her involvements. 

At this juncture the banker hurriedly entered the 

" What is the matter Marion ? — something gone much 
amiss, so Saunders seems to think. Why, who the 
devil are you ? " he exclaimed, as his eye fell upon Mr. 

" Sheriff's officer in charge," briefly responded that 

" What does he mean ? " cried Mr. Holbourne, in 
blankest astonishment. 

" My dear uncle," replied Marion, in her softest tones, 
" I am arrested for debt, and unless you pay that man 
what he demands, he tells me I must go to Drollington 

" Goodness gracious ! But how do you come to 
owe this money ? How much is it ? Whom is it 
owing to ? " 

" Two hundred and sixty seven, ten — that's wot it is- 
Who is it owing to ? — Hartz and Smelter," interposed 
Mr. Trapster. " As for how she comes to owe it, the 
lady must explain, if she can ; there's a good many would 

RLuion in Trouble. 391 

be puzzled to cipher out how it is they owes what Hartz 
and Smelter wants of em. It ain't everyone as is acquainted 
with the beauties of compound interest." And having 
favoured the banker with this information, Mr. Trapster 
blew his nose, and then smiled affably on his auditors. 

" Marion," said the banker, " this must be a thorough 
case of extortion. How can you owe all this money ? 
Tell me all about it, and I daresay I can knock off one- 
half of the amount. 

"I will tell you nothing ! " retorted Miss Langworthy, 
quietly but firmly. " That I am being grossly plundered 
I know ; but sooner than expose my folly, I will go to 
Drollington Gaol. If you love me, pay that man what 
he demands, and question me no more. I am disgraced 
for ever in Aldringham ; the further ignominy would be 
of no great matter, after all." 

In vain did the banker urge upon his niece that, if she 
would but give him some clue to her transactions with 
Hartz and Smelter, he could probably knock something 
considerable off their account. Marion was resolute ; she 
would explain nothing — if her uncle chose to pay that 
sum for her, she should be very grateful; if not, it would 
be less painful to her to go to Drollington than face the 
public exposure of her folly which the contesting of Hartz 
and Smelter's claim would call forth. 

Mr. Holbourne could not see his niece go to prison, 
and wound up by signing a cheque for the amount, upon 
receipt of which Mr. Trapster took his departure, 
extremely pleased with the way he had managed his 
little affair, and speculating a good deal upon "what larks 
that young woman had been up to." 

That evening Miss Langworthy informed her uncle 
that she must leave Aldringham, at all events for the 
present. It was useless to argue with her. She said 
frankly that she would not face the Aldringham world 
while the scandal of that public arrest was still fresh in 
their mouths, and the banker felt that he could not gain- 
say her. So it was settled that the next morning she 
should go and stay for a while with some relations of hers 
— quiet, hum-drum people, at whose proffered hospitality 
the fair Marion had hitherto rather turned her nose up. 



jjETTICE'S advance towards recovery was slow 
her extreme nervousness still painful to witness. 
If Reginald was long absent from her, the old 
dread of Marion's interposition once more 
beset her; and the doctor pronounced that her lover's 
presence was essential to her complete restoration to 
health. Sir John himself was a constant visitor to the 
invalid's room, and her gentle manner won upon his 
rugged nature strangely. As for Sylla, she was wrapped 
up in her patient. Most of us take a warm interest in 
those it may have been our fate to befriend. We all feel 
a strong sympathy for the waif we have saved from being 
engulfed in life's stormy waters. Much more must this 
hold good concerning the being for whose existence we 
have wrestled so long and wearily with death. I can 
hardly fancy a physician not feeling concern in the ulti- 
mate career of the man whom his skill has for the time 
rescued from the tomb. 

Great was the astonishment of the Baronet and his 
daughter when one morning Reginald unfolded to them 
Lettice's history, and told Sir John that she was the 
sister of his son's first wife. 

"I have Charlie's sanction to tell you all this," he con- 
tinued : " indeed more — he wished you to be acquainted 
with it. You were much mistaken, Sir John, concerning 

Co7ichision. 393 

the character of that first wife of his. I never saw her, 
of course, but know her to have been as pure and inno- 
cent as my own sweet Lettice. An unhappy confusion 
of names led you to believe that he had married very 
differently. He, in his foolishness, was too proud to cor- 
rect your mistake ; but I trust, for Gracie's sake, you 
will forgive him now." 

"He is about to bring his bride to Aldringham," re- 
plied the Baronet drily. " Let him come here afterwards 
and tell me his own story. I don't think he will find me 
hard to satisfy. Your own case, Master Regi, is more 
difficult. What .do you mean to say to your father, sir, 
about your own contumacious behaviour ? " 

" Nothing," replied the young man quietly. " I shall 
leave you and Sylla to say what sort of a bride it is that 
I have won. Let Gracie, if she can, convince him of 
Marion's real character, but I doubt her suceeding. As 
for me, I shall manage to take care of my little wife in 
some way, as soon as she is well enough to be made 

" Then Lettice is my sister, after all ! " exclaimed 

" Yes, in some measure, if you choose to acknowledge 
her as such," replied Reginald, laughing. 

" If I choose ! " exclaimed Miss Collingham. "Why, 
you know I think her the dearest girl that ever lived." 

" An opinion in which I thoroughly coincide," said 
Holbourne : " and I don't even except Gracie, though 
you ought." 

" Well, yes, I can't give up Gracie," returned Sylla, 
smiling. " But I think I can do with two such sisters." 

" What do you say, Sir John ? " inquired Reginald, 
somewhat nervously. 

The Baronet's face grew dark. 

" Charlie has not treated me well," he said at length. 
" It was not lightly that I quarrelled with him. He had 
no right to leave me all these years under such a miscon- 
ception. I can't say I should have approved or liked his 
first marriage, even as it was. But it was very different 
from what I deemed it. Had he told me his story, and 
brought home such a daughter-in-law as Lettice Melton, 

394 False Cards. 

there would have been no feud between us. I am quite 
willing, Reginald, to acknowledge the connection ; and 
though in a worldly point of view it's a bad match 
for you, I think you a deuced lucky fellow, all the 

Reginald Holbourne's face flushed with mingled pride 
and pleasure at the Baronet's speech. " Thank you, Sir 
John," he said, earnestly. " I can't say more, but I mean 
a good deal when I say thank you for your kindness to 

Very lonely felt the banker in his now solitary home. 
When you have been habituated for years to the soften- 
ing presence of woman in your wigwam, her absence 
presses hardly upon your material comforts, to say noth- 
ing of the sense of desolation that also attends such a 
gap in your household. The loss of that imperceptible 
influence which an educated woman throws around her 
hearth is a sore blow to the man left to bear it single- 
handed. The closed piano, the disappearance of the 
tumbled music, of the work-boxes, of the endless em- 
broidery, lace-work, and other womanly litter, at all of 
which you have inveighed in your day, come home to 
you now. How you wish they were but back again ! 
Little complaint would you make if the Grand Duchess 
valses were rehearsed for the fifth time ; if your india- 
rubber had been misappropriated, your pencils confis- 
cated, and you found the Times cut up into patterns 
before you had looked at it. Yet how angry these things 
made you once ! But that time has passed away, and as 
you sip your wine alone, you look back regretfully, and 
wish those days could come again. 

No man was more calculated to feel all this than Mr. 
Holbourne, and the advent of Grace and her husband 
really came like a flood of sunlight upon his existence. 
Relieved from Marion's malign influence, Grace speedily 
won her way back to her father's heart. The old house 
seemed alive again as she tripped about it ; while her 
husband showed a deference to his father-in-law, and 
oblivion of his gout, which speedily reinstated him in the 
latter's good opinion. 

" Father," said Grace one morning, as they two sat 

Conclusion. 395 

over the drawing-room fire, " I want to talk to you about 

The banker gave a slight start. 

"Better not, child — he has behaved infamously to poor 
Marion, and is going to marry " 

" My husband's sister-in-law," interrupted Mrs. 
Collingham. " I don't know much about her, but believe 
her to be as sweet a girl as a man is likely to meet with. 
Charlie has gone over to Churton to see her now. She 
has been dreadfully ill, you must know. She came down 
as companion to Sylla, and has been near dying, but she 
is coming round now. Reginald is staying at Sir John's 
to nurse her through her convalescence. Fancy Regi as 
a nurse ! I am longing to see him in that capacity ! " 

"Reginald at Churton!" exclaimed the banker. 
" Do you mean to tell me that Collingham is backing up 
that boy in his mad fancy ? " 

" Listen, father," replied Grace, " for this is my mis- 
sion. Reginald will marry no one else but Lettice Melton. 
She is a sister of Charlie's first wife, and they have grown 
so fond of her at Churton, that Sir John is quite willing 
to recognise the connection. Don't believe in Marion's 
tribulations. If Robert had asked her, instead of me, she 
would have been Mrs. Collingham this minute. Reginald 
was engaged to her as a boy, and she kept him on as a 
pis-aller, with no intention of holding to her troth, if she 
could do better." 

But Mr. Holbourne was hardly prepared to throw aside 
his faith in his niece so soon. True it was that Marion's 
last escapade in the matter of the arrest had somewhat 
shaken his belief in that young lady, but he had so ac- 
customed himself to rest upon her judgment that he 
could not as yet admit that he had been deceived in her. 
Grace showed rare tact in the management of her case. 
She alleged nothing against her cousin, beyond that she 
had ceased to care about Reginald for some time past, 
and that therefore she was by no means so badly treated 
as the banker deemed her. 

" At all events, father," she urged, at last, " do not 
discard him until you have seen this daughter he would 
give you. Sir John would be the last man to approve of 

39^ False Cards. 

her, unless she was really a girl that you might welcome 
as such. Will you be guided by him in this matter ? He 
won my pardon, let him also plead for Reginald. You 
have forgiven me — don't be hard upon Regi." 

It was not to be supposed that Mr. Holbourne would 
yield all at once, and Grace, quite satisfied with the im- 
pression she had made, very prudently refrained from 
pushing the question further. She was quite content 
when her father replied, " He could say nothing at 
present — he must think it over, talk to Sir John about 
it, and see this Miss Melton for himself." Mrs. Collingham 
felt that her brother's case was gained, and that Reginald's 
reconciliation with his father was a mere question of time. 

The banker began to expand again under the sun- 
shine of his daughter's presence, and Miss Langworthy 
day by day became less of a necessity in the routine of 
his life. He went over to Churton, and had a long inter- 
view with Sir John, which resulted in his introduction to 
Lettice, and his sanction to Reginald's marriage. Finally, 
it was arranged that the latter thould take his place 
in the bank, and Mr. Holbourne strongly urged that the 
young couple should come and keep house with him, 
but to this Reginald put forth strong objections. He 
said nothing about the treatment that Lettice had ex- 
perienced at Marion's hands, but confined himself to 
pointing out that his own previous relations with his 
cousin would make residence under the same roof ex- 
tremely awkward for both of them at present, and his 
father could but acquiesce in that view of the subject. 

This difficulty was, however, solved by Miss Lang- 
worthy herself. That young lady, upon hearing of the 
banker's reconciliation with his children, and that 
Reginald and Lettice were both staying at Churton, was 
of course aware her nefarious manoeuvres must now 
be thoroughly exposed to her cousins. Whether they 
chose to make use of such knowledge or not, it was quite 
clear to Marion that she could never face them again. 
She knew that they must be aware of most of her men- 
dacious statements, that the meeting of Reginald and 
Lettice must have resulted in a full explanation concern- 
ing her visit to Baker Street, and that she felt neither of' 

■~ : - Conclusion. 397 

them could forgive. She retired gracefully and 
dexterously from the scene. She wrote to her uncle to 
say that she forgave Reginald, and wished him and his 
bride health and happiness ; that for herself she could 
not think of returning to Aldringham, at all events for a 
long time, after the humiliation to which she had been 
lately subjected, and ask his permission to make her 
home with the relatives with whom she was now staying. 

When more business heads than Lettice's came to 
tumble over the late Mr. Cheslett's papers, it turned out 
that he had left some five or six thousand pounds behind 
him, all of which devolved upon his granddaughter, so 
that Reginald's bride came to him not altogether 
empty-handed after all. 

Miss Meggott, when she was informed by Donaldson 
of Charlie's intended marriage, was thrown into a mixed 
state of gratification and despondency. She felt all the 
interest that is natural to woman at the idea of a genuine 
love affair being brought to a satisfactory conclusion; 
but mingled with it was the feeling that a favourite 
lodger would from that time be lost to her. 

I wish him well, Mr. Donaldson," she said. " Nobody's 
congratulations will be more sincere than mine, but I 
can't help feeling sad about it too. The complaint is 
dreadfully catching, and you will be following his ex- 
ample shortly, and then what's to become of Polly 
Meggott ? When I haven't you two to blow me up or to 
laugh with, I shall get moped. Of course we shall get 
other lodgers, but none that will suit me as well, I know. 
I only hope, Mr. Donaldson, that you and Mr. Colling- 
ham have been as well satisfied with Polly Meggott as 
she has been with you. I'm sure," continued Polly 
gravely, " that if I chaff too much, it's been your fault. 
The pair of you taught me, and led me into it." 

" Never mind," replied Donaldson, laughing, "I give you 
absolution for all your impertinences — past, present, and 
to come. You will have only me to take care of in future, 
Polly, so I shall expect to be kept quite in silver paper." 

" Gracious ! yes," replied Miss Meggott, with a quiver 
of her left eye, " I shall have to be careful of you. I 
shan't let you go out except with goloshes and a 

9, n 

398 False' Cards, 

comforter. When one comes to one's last adorer, one 
must watch over him in earnest. You had better be on 
your guard, Mr. Donaldson," continued Polly, raising her 
forefinger impressively ; " if I catch you sneezing, I shall 
order you to bed ; " and with the tremor of her left eye 
resolving into a palpable wink, Miss Meggott slipped out 
of the room. 

Mr. Lightfoot's last venture was the opening of what 
he called the Alliance Ginger Beer Emporium, which 
distributed that wholesome drink in gaudily labelled 
bottles, with teetotal ballads on the reverse side. 
Despite the exorbitant price charged — and Mr. Light- 
foot's nectar was a penny dearer than any other vendor's 
— yet there was no denying that the Emporium was 
doing a wonderful business. Mr. Bullock could not com- 
prehend it ; he went the length of procuring a bottle, and 
bore witness to the fact that it was better than any ginger 
beer he had ever tasted. " What is it he puts in it ? " 
mused Mr. Bullock ; " it's something more than ginger-beer. 
It picks one up more than any ginger-beer I ever drank." 

Your great inventors are ever beset by envious rivals. 
It was one of these latter whose trade had suffered in 
consequence of the great success of the Alliance article, 
that at last conceived the malignant idea of analysing the 
sparkling wine of the Emporium. It was becoming 
more popular day by day, and the ordinary vendors of 
the drink found their stock left upon their hands. This 
man consulted Mr. Bullock ; they procured a bottle, and 
submitted it to a chemist of repute; and when Mr. 
Bullock received that gentleman's report, he smote his 
thigh, gave vent to a prolonged whistle, and exclaimed 
"I think, my friend Lightfoot, I've got you at last ! " 

The Emporium, I regret to say, was almost immedi- 
ately broken up. The Excise prosecuted Mr. Lightfoot 
for selling spirits without a license, and proved incontest- 
ably that the popularity of the Alliance Ginger Beer was 
due to its being cleverly dashed with gin. 


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34 Practical Jokes. Ditto. 

35 Screamers. Ditto. 

36 Awful Crammers. 

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Artemus Ward among Fenians 

38 Holmes' Wit and Humour. 

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40 The Danbury Newsman. 

41 Mystery of Mr. E. Drood. 

42 Shaving Them. 

43 Mr. Brown on Mrs. Brown. 

44 Sensation Novels. By 

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46 Mr. Sprouts: His Opinions. 

48 The Ramsbottom Papers. 

49 Major Jack Downing. 

50 The Pagan Child.and other 

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51 Helen's Babies. Illust. 

52 The Barton Experiment. 

By Author of " Helen's Babies." 

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54 The Jericho Road. 

55 Some Other Babies. 

56 Story of a Honeymoon. 

By C. H. Ross. Illustrated. 

58 Hans Breitmann's Ballads 

59 Other People's Children. 

Sequel to " Helen's Babies." 

60 Cent, per Cent. B.Jerrold. 

61 That Husband of Mine. 

62 Two Men of Sandy Bar. 

By Bret Harte. 

63 Grown-up Babies. Illust. 

64 Other People. Ditto. 

65 Folks in Danbury. 

66 My Wife's Relations. 

67 My Mother-in-Law. 

68 Babbleton's Baby. 

69 The Scripture Club of 

Valley Rest. John Habberton. 

70 That Girl of Mine. 

71 Bessie's Six Lovers. 

72 Mark Twain's Nightmare. 


73 Bret Harte's Hoodlum 

Band, and other Stories. 

74 Bret Harte's Deadwood 

Mystery. Tales and Sketches by 
F.C.Burnand and others. Illus- 
trated by John Proctor, &c. 

75 The Tradesmen's Club. 

Illustrated by Matt. Stretch 
and others. 

76 Bret Harte's Stories of 

the Sierras. 

77 Mrs. Mayburn's Twins. 

By Author of " Helen's Babies." 

78 The Adventures of an 

Amateur Tramp. Illustrated by 
Matt. Stretch. 

79 Transformations. By 

Max Adeler. Illustrated by 
Matt. Stretch. Boards. 

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Readable Tales by Noted Authors 

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i Surly Tim, &c. By the Author of " That Lass o' Lowrie's." 

2 Theo : A Love Story. By the same. 

3 The Queen of Sheba. By the Author of " Prudence Palfrey." 


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My Mother-in-Law. 
That Husband of Mine. 
The Scripture Club of 

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Dickens's Sketches and 

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But Yet a Woman. 

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Jacob Faithful. By ditto. 

Waverley. Sir W. Scott. 
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Paul Clifford. By Lytton 


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7 Pel ham. By Lytton Bulwer. 

8 Eugene Aram. By the Same. 

9 Midshipman Easy. By Capt. 


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52 My Mother-in-Law [ton. 

53 That Husband of Mine. 

54 The Scripture Club of 

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56 That Dreadful Boy, Trotty. 

57 Democracy: An American 


58 But Yet a Woman. By 

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59 The Art of Money-Getting. 

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60 A Bad Boy's Diary. 

61 Blunders of a Bashful Man. 

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62 Catching a Husband. By the 

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63 Uncle Remus: His Sayings 

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64 Yellowplush Papers. By W. 

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65 Mr. and Mrs. Spoopendyke. 

76 Shane Fadh's Wedding. By 

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77 Larry M'Farland's Wake. 

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78 Party Fight and Funeral. 

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79 The Midnight Mass. By 

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80 Phil Purcel, the Pig-Driver. 

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82 Going to Maynooth. By 

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83 PhelimO'Toole'sCourtship. 

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84 Dominick.the Poor Scholar. 

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85 Neal Malone. By the Same. 

86 X. Y. Z. A Detective Story. 

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87 The Secret Police. By John 


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